I have been fortunate enough to be around some of the greatest people to play and teach the game of golf, all who have molded me into the golf professional I am today. Martin Hall is one of them. Martin is currently one of the top 100 teachers in America and the 2008 PGA of America’s Teacher Of The Year. Martin has had a huge influence on my teaching philosophies and has helped me understand the importance of the swing plane.
Hall attributes much of his knowledge of the swing plane from the writings of Homer Kelley, who is most famous for his book, The Golfing Machine. The essence of Kelley’s book is simply put but hard to decipher, “when a golf club is swung off plane accuracy diminishes”. Martin conveys this concept to his junior golfers in a way only he can portray, “the only time you get off plane is at the airport”. If his junior golfers can understand the swing plane so can you. Here are a few concepts to help you understand the swing plane.
When a golf club is soled on the ground the shaft of the club is set on an angle.
To be efficient swinging the golf club you must swing your club on or close to this angle. Swinging the club on the right angle or plane gives you the best chance to swing the club in the right direction, the best chance to hit the ground in the right spot, and the best chance to hit the ball in the center of the club face. In order to swing the club on the correct plane there are two important checkpoints to look at.
Whatever end of the club is point down (i.e. grip end or club head end) it must be pointing to the target line. The target line is an imaginary straight line from your target to the golf ball and beyond in both directions. The other checkpoint to get correct is when the club shaft is parallel to the ground; it must be parallel to the target line.
This occurs 5 times in the golf swing, in order from start to finish; halfway back, at the top of the swing, halfway down, halfway up, and the finish. If you can swing the golf club according to these two checkpoints, your club will be on plane. Martin has helped me understand the importance of these principles and I hope you will too.
Another instrumental person helping golfers understand the swing plane was Ben Hogan. His mental description of the swing plane was visionary at the time he wrote his famous instructional book 5 Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. In Hogan’s book, illustrator Anthony Ravielli drew a picture of Hogan swinging a golf club under a pane of glass that was angled from the golf ball to his shoulders with a small opening his head stuck through. Hogan wanted the reader to understand that the golf club must be swung underneath the glass without the club crashing into it. This image is still used today by teachers and touring pros to visualize the swing plane.
The swing plane has been a difficult concept for golfers to understand for generations. If you can understand the basic principals and positions you will be on the right path to swinging the club efficiently while giving yourself your best chance to hit a golf ball to your target.