golf instructor I can see no reason why golfers should not
adopt an upright swing plane regardless of their physique or
if you go online to search “golf swing plane” you will see multiple
explanations about the subject and just as many differing versions about
what is correct and what is not correct.
will show shortly from a purely mechanics and physics point of view, the
benefits in distance and accuracy far outweigh those of a flatter swing
plane and for those reasons alone I recommend and teach the concepts of
adopting a more upright swing for all my students.
Swing plane angles are usually associated with a golfer’s height.
Golfers who are shorter in height are said to have a flatter swing
is also common to see golfers adopt a flat swing motion due to
characteristics of their physique that limit the range of their swing
flexibility, such as their chest and mid section size.
the other hand taller golfers naturally swing with a more upright swing
plane simply because of the increased height of their shoulders from the
the physical characteristics of a golfer are not the only things that
govern their swing plane angle.
also determines swing plane is how they position themselves in their
setup, and how they rotate their shoulders on the backswing…
Before I get into the specifics of an upright swing let me first define
how the angle of the swing plane is often understood.
say that because I am sure like most passionate golfers you have read
Ben Hogan’s book “Five lessons. The modern fundamentals of golf” and his
explanation of swing plane is probably one that is stuck firmly in your
is his explanation…
to image a golfer forming a right angled triangle in their setup
vertical side of the triangle is formed from the top of their
shoulders/neck to the ground around their feet position. The horizontal
side is formed from the club head and ball position to that point on the
ground that meets the vertical side of the triangle.
hypotenuse, or long side of the triangle, is determined from the club
head to the point on their shoulders.
classic understanding of the angle of the swing plane is that it is the
angle between the hypotenuse and the horizontal side of this triangle.
(Remember the plate of glass illustration in Hogan’s book resting on the
can now imagine how this angle would increase or decrease due to the
height of the golfer and why swing plane is often associated with the
golfers shoulder height.
reason why I say this is how swing plane angle is often
determined is that there is a big assumption with this theory that is
incorrect most of the time...
it assumes is that the club head swing path follows this same angle
throughout the backswing so that the high point of the swing lies on an
extended line that is drawn from the ball through the top of the
shoulders to the hands at the top of the swing…
reality is that the angle at which the swing “actually” rotates can be
totally different resulting in the hands reaching the top point of the
swing either below or above the point of the “Hogan plate glass
reason for this is that the swing plane angle is not only influenced by
your setup, it is mostly determined by the plane around which your
setup might show one swing plane angle that may be entirely different
from the actual plane of rotation of your shoulders.
Rotational Planes of your Shoulders
understand your shoulder rotation motion, stand upright in front of a
mirror. Hold your arms out straight from each side. You can rotate your
shoulders in a horizontal plane around the axis of your
spine… which is easy to do.
try and rotate your shoulders in a vertical plane by
lifting your right arm and dropping your left arm so that you maintain a
straight line from hand to hand across your shoulders. The axis of
rotation in this plane is a point on your chest just below your
chin….this motion is not very easy to execute.
reality of your shoulder turn on the backswing is that it is operating
in a combination of both vertical and horizontal motion.
you would expect, a shoulder turn that is moving more in the horizontal
plane will create a flatter swing plane.
that is operating more in a vertical plane will produce a more upright
when we go back to the classic Hogan explanation of the swing plane
being governed by the setup and height of the golfer, the only way that
a golfer will be on that same plane at the top of their swing is if the
combined horizontal and vertical movements of their shoulder turn
happens to match that angle.
Having this understanding that swing plane is affected more by your
shoulder rotation than your setup and height allows you to make
adjustments to your backswing to gain some of the benefits from an
upright swing path.
are some of the key reasons why I always recommend a more upright swing
plane that are based on the mechanics and physics of the swing.
Improved Consistency of your Swing Accuracy
first reason affects the accuracy and ball flight path of your shot.
you have ever reviewed my free video on the
“mechanics of common swing faults” where I outline the physics of
why your shots “fly” in the manner the do , the outcome of all your golf
shots boils down to two major factors:
The direction your shoulders are aiming at the point
of contact with the ball
The orientation of your club head face at the point
of contact with the ball
flatter your swing plane the more your shoulders are moving in the
means they are only “aiming” at the target at a point just before
contact and shortly after contact. That is because the club head motion
is moving more “across” the target line like a baseball swing rather
than towards the target line like a putting swing.
Outside of this very small region the direction your shoulders are
aiming is further to the right of the target on the down swing and
further to the left of the target on the follow through (opposite for
success of a flatter swing plane requires a high degree of “timing” and
balance in the swing through the contact point since there is very
little margin for error.
level of “ball spin” generated by a poorly timed swing also determines
the accuracy of the shot.
relative difference between the shoulder swing plane and the orientation
of the club face at the point of contact determines the amount of spin
generated on the ball.
more the shoulders are moving “across” the target line the greater the
ball spin created leading to exaggerated hooks or slices.
the other hand an upright swing is produced by the shoulders moving more
in the vertical plane which means the time the shoulders are moving down
the target line is a lot longer during the swing.
result is that the club head moves down the target line over a larger
region of the swing giving a higher margin of error for timing and
impact on ball spin is also reduced, because the shoulders swing less
“across” the target line at contact for a poorly timed shot.
both cases the consistency of your swing accuracy will improve the more
upright your swing plane angle…
Higher Swing Power and Distance
Observe all of the big hitters on tour and one of the common features
you will notice is most adopt an upright swing.
wrote about this in a previous
newsletter but it is worth reviewing the reasons why an upright
swing plane generates more power for the swing:
The hands and club head will be higher off the ground at the top of
the swing generating more “potential energy” for the swing. When you
think of the energy that can be created by hoisting a 20-30lb weight
above your shoulders and dropping it, you will understand where
increased energy comes for the swing. That weight being the combined
weight of your club and arms.
You use your powerful muscles down your right side and the top of
your left shoulder which can generate more power for the swing than
using the power of your lower back muscles rotating around the base
of your spine in a flatter swing.
balance during the backswing and downswing is affected by the
centrifical force of rotating the club head as it is in motion and on
what angle that force is acting on your trunk.
centrifical force generated by the club head moving in a circular path
acts to pull your shoulders forward toward the ball which can affect the
stability of your trunk during your swing.
give you and exaggerated example of the effect this might have on your
balance, try to imagine the action of an athlete throwing the hammer.
this case the athlete has to overcome the enormous centrifical force
needed to rotate the hammer by “leaning back” in order to stay balanced
during the spin.
flatter swing plane has a similar impact on the balance of the golfer
who has to counter the effect of the centrifical force need to rotate
the club head with the lower back muscles in order to hold the trunk in
position during the swing.
During an upright swing this centrifical force is being generated more
up through the trunk and legs from the ground generating less effect on
your lower back muscles allowing your trunk to remain more stable.
How to Generate an Upright Swing
much as you might expect your setup to impact the plane angle, it
impacted more by your shoulder rotation.
encourage you to start your swing with a “downward rotation” of your
golfers initiate their swing by moving their hands.
golfers who may be stiff in their trunk flexibility, shoulders or may
have a few inches more around their mid section than they would like,
starting the swing with their hands encourages them to “wrap” their
swing around their body causing a flat swing plane.
is because their shoulders are moving more in the horizontal plane.
net swing results can be excessive slicing, with the ball starting the
flight path heavily to the left, or pushing the ball to the right.
is because the region where the club head is moving down the target line
is very small lowering the margin of error for accuracy in the swing as
I covered earlier.
Start your swing by a downward movement of the left shoulder and you
will counter this problem.
ensures your swing begins with more of a vertical rotation of the
shoulders. By doing so your shoulders will be rotating more down the
Mirror Exercise for Correct Setup
other area that will affect your swing plane is your setup.
encourage you to practice this swing initiation drill with your left
shoulder turn in front of a mirror at home.
you turn watch your hand motion. Adjust your setup in order to make it
easier to turn vertically and move your hands along a more upright swing
are a few pointers to help you:
Let your arms hang vertically down in the stance with
your hands positioned no more than six inches away from your leg.
Keep your back straight from the hips up. Do not let
your shoulder hunch forward.
If you are large chested you may want to lean forward
more in the stance to give your arms more clearance to move straight
back rather than wrap around your body.
you go through this routine you are likely to feel muscle stiffness in
the back swing that you are not used to…especially in your left
is because it is much easier to rotate your shoulders horizontally
around your spine than to rotate them vertically.
is normal since the motion in the vertical plane uses different muscles
in your golf swing.
golfers are just too stiff in the shoulders to do this effectively and
when they first try an upright swing plane on the range they find the
Should this occur, shorten your backswing considerably because the
stiffness of your golf muscles in the upright swing plane is causing
other areas of your swing to breakdown.
Caution: Never allow your left elbow to break when trying to swing more
upright. You will defeat the purpose of the adjustment to a higher swing
plane and only cause yourself more timing problems.
exercise I recommend to improve shoulder flexibility in the vertical
plane is to take a broom handle and place it across your shoulders and
then wrap your elbows and arms over the top of the handle.
some people this may be a stretching exercise in itself, so do it gently
without stressing the shoulder muscles.
handle straight down one side as far as you can go, and hold for 60
seconds. As you hold the stretch, do not allow your hips to move
sideways in the opposite direction as this will counter the stretch.
Likewise keep your trunk upright and straight as much as possible during
do the same motion in the opposite direction.
After a few days of this stretch, you will find your distance on the
range will improve as you begin to extend your backswing more. However,
you should see marked improvement your accuracy consistency right from
the start the more you swing down the target line.
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