Save strokes by mastering swing plane

What a way to spend Father’s Day! Indoor activities it seems, was the name of the game Sunday.

What a way to spend Father’s Day!

Indoor activities it seems, was the name of the game Sunday. That is, of course, unless you have prepared yourself for exactly these types of weather conditions. An umbrella, toque, mitts, a rain suit and even a rain cover for your golf bag.

Preparing yourself for all weather conditions will most certainly allow you the best opportunity to play your best golf when faced with adverse conditions. Having said that most golfers will tend to take a day off when it is raining outside and focus on other activities. Based on the weather, Father’s Day look like it could be one of those days.

Preparation is the key to performing at your best regardless of what the activity is. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. This statement says it all and applies to everything we do in life. The focus as I see it, regardless of what we do in life should be done with conviction, passion, optimism and dedication.

Putting your heart and soul into our daily lives as well as our golf games will most certainly ensure you are fulfilled at the end of the day.

Today I am going to discuss what is referred too as the swing plane. A properly executed swing plane creates the best opportunity for the club to return to the ball with maximum speed, creating the best possible contact and sending the golf ball on target and with optimal distance.

The first step is to understand what swing plane refers to. Basically, what we are attempting to do when swinging the golf club is to make a circle around our body as we take the golf club into our backswing and through to our finish position.

This circle is made with the club head itself and should be the same on both sides of the body. The circle should be as wide as we can possibly make it on both sides of the ball.

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to a poor swing plane. A few of these would include improper body rotation, collapsing of the target arm, and grip pressure. Ensuring that these movements are perfected will certainly assist in creating a better circle about your body with the golf club.

In the past three articles, I have discussed the proper swing motion, about how the body must make a rotational motion rather than a lateral motion and the possible swing faults that come with an improper rotational motion. These include the sway, slide and early extension or lifting up (lifting your head). All of these swing flaws happen by not creating rotation in the body during the swing.

To assist in eliminating the sway and slide, take two golf shafts that are full length or close to full length. Practising on grass, address the golf ball. Now take the shafts and stick them in the ground touching the outside of both your heels. Be sure that the shafts are in a vertical position when stuck in the ground.

These act as a wall and will give you immediate feedback when you make a swing. The idea here is that when you swing into your backswing, be sure that the distance that you have between your right hip (for right-handed golfers) and the shaft of the golf club remains the same at the top of your backswing as it was in your address position.

If done properly, the distance between your hip in your address position will be the same when you are at the top of your backswing.

The same is true for the downswing. As you swing through the ball, you want to make sure that your left hip (for right-handed golfers) does not hit the shaft positioned by your left heel. If it does, you have just slid your hips.

Turning inside the shaft and not allowing your hip to touch ensures that you have rotated, and not slid your hips into your finish position. This is rotation and crucial to creating a great swing plane.

The next step is to ensure that you start with a relaxed grip pressure. Gripping the golf club too tightly causes tension. Tension disables your ability to create hinge during the backswing.

The hinge is a crucial component to a good swing plane. Allowing yourself to create hinge early in the backswing will assist in properly directing the golf club on a vertical plane.

In others words, the golf club works its way upwards and therefore will position itself above your shoulders at the top of your backswing.

Gripping the golf club too tightly in your address position will not allow you to create the proper hinging motion, therefore in most cases will cause you to have a flat swing plane (club positioned behind your shoulders rather than above them). In most cases this causes thin or topped shots.

Finally, you want to ensure that your target arm (left arm for right-handed golfers) starts and remains straight during the backswing and through impact. The break down or bending of your target arm can create too steep of a swing plane.

Generally speaking, bending of the target arm not only creates too steep of a swing plane, but also causes your arms to work independently of your body.

The bottom line in most cases is a loss of distance as your body is no longer in control.

There are many factors that can contribute to poor swing plane, but these are a few of the most common causes.

It seems rare that I actually spend time with a student focusing only on creating a good circle during a golf lesson. This is due to the fact that there are other factors that need to be worked on prior to addressing a better swing plane.

The fact remains that as your swing is improving, so is your swing plane! As an instructor, although the swing plane is not discussed that often, my attempt is to work towards creating a better circle as you swing the golf club. Doing so will most certainly give you the best opportunity to hit the ball on line and with greater distance.

Hope all you dads out there have had a great Father’s Day and hope to see you on the links this week.

Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake. His column appears Tuesdays in the Advocate.