The Bottom of the Swing Arc is the ONLY Part That Matters!
One of the most discussed topics when it comes to the golf swing is swing plane. It’s is also one of the least understood concepts in that it covers a much broader area than is generally considered.
The golf club is built on an angle for a reason. Simply stated, the ball is on the ground and it is also aside the player. Therefore, the idea of inclined plane is integral to understanding the swing of a golf club. But the incline that affects our ball flight is not the image most people have of swing plane. One of the first images that comes to mind is of Ben Hogan’s famous pane of glass; and as iconic as that illustration was, it has served to distort our understanding of swing plane.
I should add here as well that any complete discussion of plane can never be limited to the golf club only. The torso, the lower body, the arms and hands — as well as the golf club — all swing on a “plane.” For our purposes, however, we’re only to discuss the golf club.
One way of understanding plane might be to think of it as an arc relative to the ground. Because there are several of these “mini planes” in the golf swing, we see how the club can be traveling on different planes at various times in the swing. The club moves away from the ball on a certain plane, then moves to the top of the swing on a little different arc and transitions down on yet another plane. A golfer’s preferences and body type can dictate all those arcs.
A player can choose how to take it back, even how to transition, but when it comes to the impact area — which is where the club is carrying maximum speed — choice is no longer part of the equation. At this time, the club head might as well be a free-flying object. It weighs the equivalent of about 100 pounds, so golfers have little to no control over the clubface. That’s why the clubhead must be “programmed” VERY EARLY in the swing, well prior to impact.
Flightscope defines Vertical Swing Plane (VSP) as the vertical measurement of the sweet spot movement in the bottom of the swing arc. The bottom of the swing arc is approximately where the golf club gets to parallel to the ground on the downswing to the first time it gets parallel in the through swing.
This 6-iron shot has a VSP of 61.4 degrees and an attack angle of -4.7 degrees.
Are there optimum numbers for vertical swing plane? Not really, but here are a few PGA Tour averages. You’ll notice that with the irons, that is, for shots hit off the turf, the VSP resembles the lie angle of the golf club.
- Driver: 47 degrees
- 6-iron: 61 degrees
- Wedge: 65 degrees
So what does this mean for your swing? Well, the vertical plane of the swing can make a difference in a few areas. For example, the flatter the plane angle (lower numbers), the more hitting up or down affects path. Path and attack angle are ever changing on an inclined plane, and the more inclined they are they more they change. Someone swinging on a flat plane, say a VSP of 40 degree with a 6 iron, needs to swing or aim more left (if they are a right-handed golfer) than a golfer with a VSP of 60 degrees.
Flatter plane swings also tend to be wider, and may require a more centered pivot, while upright planes are narrower and would allow for more of a move move off the ball going back.
These are just some of the issues we have to deal with when it comes to swing plane. But before we go drawing on videos and seeing lines, remember the bottom of the swing arc is the only part that matters, and the only part that, when set in motion, remains stable enough to stay that way.
Submitted by Guest Instructor: Dennis Clark