As coaches, we often use the term swing path but before we can talk about the difference between swing path and plane, I think it’s worth underlining exactly what we are referring to. For the majority of golf coaches, swing path is the area of the swing just before, through and just after impact. Ideally the club will move from just inside the ball-to-target line to square to just inside that line. Of course, this ‘ideal’ path would be perfectly orthodox and there are numerous examples of top players who do not swing it on the textbook path. However, I think it helps players of all abilities to know where the orthodox path is. If your club starts to move from either too far inside or outside the ball-to-target line, knowing where the neutral path is will usually help you get back on track.
What is swing plane?
Swing plane refers to the angle the club circles around the body through the swing as a whole. If you drew a line along the ground and then another line at right angles to this, going directly vertical through the ball, the plane of the swing would split these two. Again there are plenty of examples of great players with upright and flat swings but it helps to know where the orthodox plane is.
How to check plane
Take your normal address position and push an alignment stick into the ground, at the same angle as the club shaft at address. Half way back the clubhead should be in line with that stick. Then, as you continue your backswing the shaft of the club should be parallel to the stick in the ground – the butt end of the club should be pointing at the ball. Using the alignment stick in this scenario is a great way to keep an eye on your swing plane to ensure it isn’t drastically, and disastrously, out.
One of the most common faults I see is the slice and this usually stems from an out-to-in swing path through impact. This drill is a great one to help you train a better path through impact and help fix your slice. Place two headcovers on the ground, either side of your ball as shown. This creates a gateway for the ideal swing path. If you attack the ball from outside the ball to target line, you’ll hit one if not both of the headcovers as you strike the ball. Having a clear visual clue for how to swing the club through impact is great way to turn your slice into a more neutral ball flight.
It is amazing how often your feeling for what is happening in your golf swing bears no resemblance to the reality – this goes for amateurs and pros. I would urge every golfer to video their swing on a regular basis. With regards to path and plane, pause the video half way through the backswing and then half way through the downswing. You’ll be able to see how close you are to the orthodox line – if you are struggling with wayward shots, the fault may well lie within these images!