9 O'Clock Swing Plane

Learn the 3 Tour Pro Consistency Secrets You've NEVER Heard!

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Published: February 18, 2014

Swing plane is a hotly debated topic amongst the golfing world and for good reason. It is a critical piece to having a sound and repeatable swing. But, with all the conflicting beliefs on the swing plane, how does the average golfer know what to work on?

I can assure you that there is no one perfect plane to swing a golf club on and that need not be perfect in your golf swing. What is necessary is for the shaft to be reasonably "on plane" at key points during the swing. But just what is "on plane?"

Study the image below. As you can see in the backswing, my shaft is pointing directly at the ball and as I come back down, my club is on the same plane during the downswing.

This trend continues down into impact where my shaft and right elbow is on the exact same plane 9 o'clock plane I established during the backswing. When you can maintain a consistent swing plane becomes just details.

golf swing plane

While swinging the club back and through on one plane certainly isn't a requirement to hit great golf shots, swinging on a reasonably good plane is important and something that most golfers will have to work at to accomplish.

By using the drill in this video, you will quickly realize whether or not you have been swinging on plane and what you need to work on to correct it. The main area to focus on is getting the club on plane at 9 o'clock during the backswing as that sets the path for the rest of the swing.

The downswing and impact area is nothing more than a reaction to what you did on the way back, so get this one simple position on plane and you will be well on your way to improved ball striking.


Checkpoints for Practice

  • Stick a rod in the ground parallel to your shaft plane at address
  • Swing back to the 9:00 position and check - is your club pointing at the ball? Is it parallel to the rod?
  • Plane, path, club face angle, and angle of attack are four keys to the golf swing
  • Plane affects path and attack angle affects trajectory - staying on plane back & through help you hit consistent shots
  • Forward shaft lean in the attack angle keeps the shot low, for better control
  • Check your swing in the mirror or on video to get a consistent plane

Video Transcription: 9 O'Clock Swing Plane

In the Takeaway Drill we talked about how the club should work more to the inside, and in the Shaft Plane Drill we talked about how the club should work very closely to a consistent plane that you established at address.

Shaft points outside ballShaft points outside the ball

What are some other checks, as we're working on our backswing, to get that club working back and through on a very simple, consistent plane? One of the things that I like to check when I'm doing lessons with golfers is their position, where the club is pointing - the shaft plane - when their arm is at 9:00 or parallel to the ground.

More often than not, what you tend to see for golfers learning a one plane swing or trying to change some things in their swing, is undoubtedly they get the club in this position, so my arm is parallel to the ground, and if you look down the line my shaft is pointing well outside the ball. It would be pointing out in this area here, several feet outside the ball.

While pointing a little bit outside the ball is OK as long as you're parallel to that plane - what that would look like as I take the club back, this shaft matches this plane here, and would point just about a foot or several inches outside the ball. That's OK.

The same thing is true if I point a little bit inside of it; I'm just a touch steeper, and I point maybe just a few inches inside the target line. There's leeway, depending on how deep your arms work behind you and how you swing the club in general, to where you end up.

Ideally, the most consistent place to be is somewhat pointing more or less directly at that golf ball. As I take the club back at 9:00, my shaft is just a little bit steeper than where it was at address, and it points more or less straight down at the target line.

Shaft positionAn amateur's club often points outside the ball (left) or inside (center). It should point at the ball (right)

That's a very consistent plane to swing back on, and then as you swing down you're going to end up on that same plane at the same point and the club's going to work down directly on plane.

What you have to be careful of is erring too much on either side. If I see a golfer who has a great backswing position but his club is pointing just a little bit inside the ball, but I know that his hands are deep behind him, I know that that's OK because he's still in this position here, where the club is pointing at the target line, but his hands are deeper behind him.

As he moves his hands farther behind his chest, that's going to move where the shaft is pointing. It may point down inside the target line several inches, but it's just because his hands have worked farther behind his body, which is perfectly acceptable in a one plane golf swing.

Erring on either sideErring in either side: Hands behind chest (left), left arm out & away (right)

Now if I see the golfer get in this position I know that his left arm, the club has worked out this way. His left arm has worked out away from his body instead of angled in. He's rotated his left forearm aggressively, and now he's in a really bad position. This is a terrible position to try and play golf from.

It's very, very inconsistent, and I see tons and tons of golfers or new one planers in this position at the backswing. They've got here, and now on the downswing they're going to have to try and make some sort of compensation loop to get the club back down on a reasonable plane to try and strike the ball.

To keep things as simple and consistent as possible, swing the club up and at 9:00 see that your shaft is pointing very close to the target line, or just a little bit inside or a little bit outside, but not to one extreme or the other. Just give yourself several inches of leeway in checking that position at the top.

Correcting the extremes (left, center)Use a mirror when adjusting an extreme (left, center) to the correct plane (right)

If you're somewhere in that plane, somewhere pointing at the target line, somewhat just inside or outside depending on the variations of your swing, you're going to be in a much better position to make a consistent downswing plane as well and match up, rather than being in this position, where it's very flat and laid off and too around. The club has worked too far out, etc., etc.

Check this plane in the mirror constantly when you're working on making the adjustment going from here or here to get more on plane at the 9:00 position in your backswing.

Shaft points at ballThe shaft points at the ball

When it comes to discussing the 9:00 swing plane, that is a position that's checked quite often by most instructors, you'll see a ton of variance from every golfer. That's just part of the game of golf. There's unique variations to everybody's golf swing and there is no one thing on the backswing plane that's consistent amongst all golfers.

You'll see some golfers who are a little steeper, some are a little shallower, etc., etc., but the goal in producing a consistent golf swing is that essentially you need to understand four things that really affect how well you strike the ball and how well you're going to play golf.

I've got a couple of models up here, a couple of swings up here to take a look at to look at some of these things, but before we get started with that I want to talk about these four keys that impact the only thing that really matters in the golf swing, and that is impact.

Shaft points outsideThe shaft points way outside

The first thing is the swing plane. If I advance through and we look at the golf club working back here, at 9:00 this shaft is on a plane that points at the ball. Let me change the color to make it a little easier to see. Then I'm going to advance this golfer as well, to show that at 9:00 the shaft is pointing well outside the ball. This is a little bit of a flatter plane, pointing more outside.

The shaft plane affects most importantly - not so much on the way back, but on the way down, but of course the way you take it back affects and impacts the way you take it down - it affects how you come into the ball, whether you come in steep or shallow, and it also affects the path of the club, so if you alter the plane you can tend to bring the path in a little bit more from in to out or out to in if you steepen that plane or shallow out that plane.

The first thing you need to understand is the way that you swing the club back, the plane that you take the club back on and down on, impacts every part of your golf swing. Swing plane is a very important piece.

Swing plane affects the next thing that I want to talk about, which is the path. If I keep advancing this golfer through, as you come through the path that this club is traveling on - if we stopped right here and I will draw a couple of lines to show the path; click on the sweet spot of the club, advance through a couple of frames here...almost to impact, there's impact.

Club pathClub path (yellow curve)

You can see...that's not incredibly accurate, but...you can see the path that the club is traveling on comes down, works on this path, and then works back around to the left.

That path affects the initial direction of the ball. You can see this ball came out straight and is going right down the target line. The path of the club comes from the inside and then works immediately back to the inside. That path affects which way the ball is going to initially start.

What also affects that is the third thing that we're going to talk about, which is club face angle. If the club face angle is open or closed, and you have...let's put a couple things together here. Obviously, if the club face is open the ball is going to start right. If the club face is closed it's going to tend to start left, or it's going to affect the spin that's put on the ball.

In this case at impact I know, because I hit this ball, that I hit a draw here. I know that that club face is square or working slightly closed on the path that I swung this club on so I know that the ball is going to work slightly right to left because the plane that I was on and the path and the club face angle all agreed on the shot that I was trying to hit.

Downswing planeDownswing plane is very steep (light blue)

If we advance this golfer here, as he comes down his backswing plane, this yellow line, was a little flat but then on the way down he steepens so at the same position, at 9:00 on the way down, he's managed to get it back on plane although it's a very, very steep plane.

From this steep a plane, it's going to be very hard, one, not to come out of your spine angle, and two, not either just dead yank it pull left, or hit a lot of cuts. What's going to determine whether or not you hit a cut is the club face angle, and of course the path.

Those three things - plane is the first thing - plane affects the path. Path is important because it's going to show which direction the ball is going to start out on initially. Club face angle is also going to impact that, and affect the spin on the ball.

The last thing that's really important is the angle of attack, and I'm just going to group that together with the forward shaft lean at impact, which is going to affect one of these most important things, and probably overlooked thing in the golf swing, and that is trajectory.

If you spend any time - I'm going to delete some lines here. I'm going to take a closer look at some of these things - if you look at any Tour pro and watch them hit balls, the golf shots that they hit will all start out fairly low, with all of their irons, with all of their clubs in the bag.

On plane at 9:00On plane at 9:00

It may climb up to a higher trajectory, but compared to the typical, average amateur, or the average professional golfer like mini tour professional or very good amateur, the pros control the trajectory of their ball so much more because of the angle of attack and the amount of forward shaft lean they have at impact. That is also affected by the shaft plane path, etc.

All of these four things really come together. We're not going to get into every single piece of it, but if we are looking at the plane and, particularly since this video is dealing with the plane of the club at 9:00, when we look at that plane, that is effectively on plane.

If I swing back down on that same plane, or very close to it, I'm going to have a reasonable good shot of coming down on a reasonably good plane with a good path. As long as the club face angle is good, then the direction of the ball is going to be good. As long as I have a proper amount of forward shaft lean or my angle of attack is good, I'm going to launch the ball on a good trajectory.

All of those things affect how we flight the ball which is, hands down, when it comes to ball striking, is one of the most important things: how you flight the ball. You can make solid contact, but if you launch the ball straight up to the Moon, it's not going to do you any good because you're going to get beat up in the wind and it's going to be too difficult to control the ball.

Many different planesMany different planes

Checking this 9:00 plane position, that you're somewhat on plane, if you're a little bit steeper or a little bit shallower or whatever, if you're somewhere within these guides of just a few inches either side of the ball - a ball or two to the left or a ball or two to the right - that is reasonable enough to play reasonably good golf.

Now, you can look at something like this on the right, and you can see how these lines - the red line is the shaft plane that this golfer had at address, the yellow line is the shaft plane at 9:00, which you can see is well outside the ball, and then the blue was the shaft plane at 9:00 on the way down.

These lines...basically, if you see a bunch of Xs when you're drawing plane lines like this, it's not necessarily usually a very good sign. Xs are bad.

If we advance the golfer on the left, go through, as we come back down the shaft comes right back down on the same plane, so we're not going to draw any Xs here.

It's going to be pretty easy to get a good golf shot form here, and if you keep going down into impact you can see that this shaft is on the exact same plane, apart from obviously the shaft droop. The shaft is bending here - we can't do anything about that - but my right forearm, my elbow, is on that exact same plane and the grip of the club and the shaft is on that exact same plane that I both took it back on, and then brought the club back down on.

On plane in downswing & at impactOn plane in downswing (left) and at impact (right)

It doesn't have to be this way. You'll see golfers who take it steeper on the way back and loop and drop it back in, golfers who take it a little bit deeper and come over the top.

But if you're obviously looking for something simple, consistent, and easily repeatable to give us the four keys to our golf swing - which is a good plane, a good path, proper club face angle, and forward shaft lean or angle of attack at impact - this is going to give you the best chance of doing it coming down on a very similar, consistent, constant plane, swinging back on a consistent, constant plane, which you can see demonstrated here.

Yet another planeYet another plane

Versus something that's simply...not that this couldn't be effective, but something that's a little bit more complicated when we're talking about having this plane at address, then this plane on the way back, and then a much steeper one on the way down. It's difficult because your swing plane is all over the place.

You can see on the way through that the shaft is coming out, again, on yet another plane. If we change the color of this to make it a little bit easier to see, you can see that we've got a lot of different things going on in this golf swing.

If I advance through on the swing here, you can see that the shaft comes through more or less still on plane. It's pointing at the position where the ball was at impact. It's just simple to maintain. You can see that there's four different lines going on here, and here this is simply just the club swinging around on a circle, being allowed to freely swing around the body, surround the body, rotate around the body, and come out on a consistent plane.

Now obviously this plane is, as Hogan talked about, coming down into impact you feel like the plane is tilted because you feel like the plane shifts a little bit and that's why you get this coming out looking like it's on a completely different plane when in fact it's not; it's just that that plane is tilted a little bit.

Final planeFinal plane

Anyway, if you can check this position in the mirror when you're at home, when you're working on your golf swing, or check it when you're actually hitting balls, with a video camera, and see where you are at 9:00, this may clue you in to some things that are going on in your golf swing.

If you have golf swing analysis software and you can draw a couple of lines; you don't have to get overly complicated about it, but if you see something like this, where you're drawing these lines all over the place it's a pretty good indication that your swing has some inefficiencies in it and is just a little more complicated than you want it to be.

See that, as you take it back, it's somewhat on plane here, somewhat pointing at the ball - a little bit inside, a little bit outside, etc. - but close to this plane, and see if that doesn't clue you in to some of the things that you need to work on in your golf swing.

Work on getting it on plane and see that the four keys to your golf swing - plane, path, club face angle, forward shaft lean - put all those things together and that's how you're going to have consistent golf shots with a repeatable, consistent, simple, and easy to maintain golf swing.

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