Stuart Appleby's Golf Swing

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Published: February 18, 2014

Stuart Appleby's golf swing is has long been marveled at for its simplicity and power. It's such a simple movement, but done with such great dynamism and athleticism, that Stuart makes a lot of complicated things seem very, very simple.

Stuart Appleby - AddressStuart Appleby - Address

Stuart looks very powerful, right from the outset, at address. He's very balanced and athletic, not rigid or stiff. He looks ready to go.

Appleby has his shoulders pulled back a little bit more at address than a lot of golfers. Many players, especially older ones on the Seniors Tour, have the shoulders a bit more rounded at address, with their arms hanging down a bit more.

Stuart tends to pull his shoulder blades back more, for more of a squarish look. This helps pull his arms more into his body.

Another notable trait of Stuart's golf swing is how effectively he uses his body to generate a tremendous amount of power throughout the majority of his swing. There's a sense of connection of his arms to his body, right from the outset. He has a nice amount of flex in his knees. He looks very poised.

One Plane Traits

Looking at the reference lines drawn on the photo below, we can see a lot of typical one plane traits in his golf swing.

Reference linesReference lines

The most noticeable one is the amount of spine angle he has at address - about 45 degrees. Stuart is a taller guy, about 6'1", so he can definitely benefit from that spine angle and getting a little more tilt at address.

This also places his shoulders a little farther out over his toes. If you look at the red line, you can see that the shoulder seam on his shirt is out slightly beyond his toes.

This is something we check in all our RST students. When you get into address you want that shoulder seam to be out over the toes, rather than being over your knees or even the balls of your feet. Getting the shoulders out over the toes helps ensure you've got an athletic amount of spine tilt at address.

Another interesting feature of Stuart's swing is his shaft plane at address, shown by the diagonal yellow line. This line actually runs up right through the bottom of his right forearm, which is a pretty interesting trait you don't see in a lot of other golfers, but which is very effective in Stuart's swing.

Club Face Square to the Plane Line

You'll see as Stuart Appleby starts his takeaway that this shaft plane actually helps him get his right arm up and back a bit more, getting the club moving up on plane without having to manipulate it and have an early wrist set.


In fact, Stuart's actually does quite the opposite. He sets his wrists very late in the golf swing, compared to a typical professional.

There are some very interesting things to note as Stuart moves through his takeaway. One, he takes the club face back basically square to the plane line, or even borderline shut rather than being rotated into an open, toe-up position.

You can also see that his right arm is bent back quite a bit. A lot of golfers, particularly two planers, will have their right arm more extended out at this point to create a lot of width in the swing. Stuart has a pretty tight, compact move created by this dramatic angle and the right arm bending up and back. This is actually what's helping bring the club up on plane without requiring a manipulation from his hands.

So far in the takeaway, he's done little more than just turn his upper body and bend his right arm. His lower body has stayed fairly quiet.

Club face angleClub face angle

This next photo shows the angle of the club face more clearly. It's very, very common for golf instructors today to teach that as the club gets parallel to the ground the face should be in a toe-up position, so the blue line that would actually be vertical.

A vertical club face would be a good indication that the golfer had rolled the forearms, especially in a one plane swing, in order to achieve that position. Stuart's position is the result of a very simple and quiet takeaway, without a lot of arms and hands being active in the first part of the swing.

Of course the hands and arms are inevitably going to get more and more active as the swing progresses, so starting out very quiet is a good way to help keep them fairly quiet throughout the swing.

We'll see this on the downswing as well; his club face angle will come into play later on during the swing.

A Great Shaft Plane in the Backswing

Arm at 9:00Arm at 9:00

As we move on a few frames to where Stuart's arm is parallel to the ground, you can see that his shaft plane in the backswing is parallel to the shaft plane established at address. This is a great position to be in. The plane is very close to being on line with the ball.

You'll see a lot of variance among different golfers at this point. Some players will have the shaft pointing somewhere between the ball and the feet, in more of a classic two plane position where the club gets a bit more upright.

Others, especially amateurs, tend to get extremely outside, where the blue line would be pointing well to the outside of the ball. That plane would be too flat, showing that the golfer is swinging around the body too much, using their hands a lot in the takeaway. That's a pretty bad position to be in, but it's very common. It's a very difficult position to recover from.

Anything in the general area of Stuart's plane here, where the shaft is parallel to the original shaft plane and pointing somewhat at the ball, is a great position to be in at this point.

At the topAt the top

There are more interesting features to see as we move to the top of the swing. The purple line in this photo represents Stuart's shoulder plane. You can see that his arms and shoulders are very much on the same plane. It's not identical, of course - very few golfers are - but he's definitely much more in a one plane than a two plane position.

This is a very good one plane position. A two plane golfer would have that left arm coming up through the base of the neck - somewhere between the head and the shoulders - at this point, rather than being out over the shoulders.

But this is a great one plane position for Stuart Appleby. His right arm is in a good position at the top. The club face, you can barely see it in this photo but it's still pretty square to his forearm, perhaps a little bit shut here, which is a characteristic of Stuart's swing. That shut face is also characteristic of his misses, which tend to be left when he gets a little off.

Avoiding the Hook

Stuart's in a very solid position. His lower body has stayed very stable and quiet, and he's got a fantastic transition from here that helps get everything moving back to the left.

Beginning of downswingBeginning of downswing

Notice, too, that although it's definitely a one plane position, Stuart's shoulder plane is a bit flatter than what some consider a purist one plane position. That's not a problem. It will cause a tendency to hit the ball a little bit more right-to-left, so if you tend to do that you'll want to be careful about rotating your shoulders on a flatter plane like this.

Of course, if Stuart rotated this flat on the way down he would undoubtedly hit a lot of massive hooks because of the dynamics of his swing and the way he takes it back. Keeping the club face a little more square, or even slightly shut, then rotating flat on the way back would cause a lot of problems on the way down if he just rotated down flat.

You'll notice on the way down, however, that he steepens his shoulders quite a bit. This will affect his follow through position, which some people have described as looking like more of a two plane position. You'll see in a moment why that happens.

As he starts the downswing we also notice that when his arm is parallel to the ground the club matches up almost perfectly with where it was at the same position during the backswing and he's made a great transition into his left side.

Shaft through right forearmShaft through right forearm

You can tell he's just really stable at this point. He's really poised to make a very good, aggressive strike through the ball.

As we move through into the next view you can see in the photo at right that the shaft goes through his right forearm. This is, once again, a fantastic position to be in, and one that we look for regularly. This will tend to create a slightly right-to-left ball flight, but of course that will vary dramatically depending on your grip, the club face position in your backswing, etc.

Overall, just in terms of being neutral on the way down, this is a great, strong position to be in. Stuart has maintained a good amount of lag here.

You can see that his club face is, again, a little past what we would consider a toe-up position. It's a little more square or slightly shut at this point, and we'll see that continue to be a trait through his downswing.

Shoulder plane changesShoulder plane changes

The first thing to notice in this next photo is that as he's coming down through here his shoulders are starting to move out of the plane they had at the top of the swing. His right shoulder is actually dropping quite a bit, rather than retracing the line he was on at address.

His shoulders actually steepen quite a bit. The white line shows where his shoulder plane was at the top of the swing, but he's steepened a great deal on the way down into impact.

As we near impact, the most striking thing about this shot is that the club face is very, very square or almost borderline shut here. The good thing about this position is that the club face doesn't really have to do anything at this point to square into the ball.

Square Face Keeps Things Quiet

Club face very squareClub face very square

He doesn't have to do anything with his hands at this point. He just has to keep turning and release his arms and club. Granted, that's a more of a two plane swing trait, but it's something Stuart has incorporated into his swing.

The nice thing about it is that keeping this club face very, very square at this point means he doesn't have to manipulate it to square the club face at the last second before impact.

This is a fantastic position that really quiets the impact area down. It's something we believe all golfers should ideally strive for - to keep the club face and path be very quiet through impact, with no manipulation needed whatsoever. Stuart Appleby is the epitome of that, and is in a fantastic position here.

The only issue is that if you do release the arms and hands aggressively through impact and start to rotate the club face over you'll miss left, and that, of course, is Stuart's tendency - if he misses, it's to the left.

You can see that from the position shown above that if he aggressively released his right or left hand and rolled his forearms over, he would definitely hit a pretty big hook. Of course, Stuart's trained his swing for a pretty quiet release.


You'll also notice in the pre-impact photo above that his right elbow is still quite a bit back. That's also a good position. All he has to do is keep turning through the shot and he'll make solid contact.

As he gets into impact, one of the things you'll notice is that he does release his right arm through the ball. Again, that's more of a two plane trait, as opposed to keeping the right arm back longer, but this is still a fantastic impact position here; the shaft is in line with his right forearm.

Interestingly, both Stuart and his coach believe this type of release make it a lot easier to work the ball in both directions - right-to-left or left-to-right.

Two Plane Traits in a One Plane Swing

A lot of Tour players, probably most, end up with the right arm extended out and releasing away from the body. Again, it's more of a two plane trait, but it's one that Stuart has incorporated very well into his swing, and which does allow him to work the ball more easily, particularly left-to-right, in his golf swing.

It's a conscious decision he's made, and he's well aware of the consequences and plays it very well in his golf swing.

Follow throughFollow through

As we come through you'll notice now that the shoulder plane he had at address is dramatically steeper than the plane through impact. It's quite a bit of difference, several degrees steeper, and it causes a lot of different dynamics in the through swing.

One thing you'll note is that when he gets into the steeper shoulder position the club is going to come out a little bit more upright and vertical, rather than around, as you would see in a more typical one plane swing.

Again, this all has to do with the way Stuart takes the club back, which is very quiet, the way he wants to work the ball in both directions, the way he set up his swing to allow for that, and the way he keeps the club face very square and quiet throughout the swing.

He doesn't need to have a very aggressive release around his body, whereas someone who takes the club back very open - rolling the left forearm dramatically in the backswing and then rolling it dramatically on the way down - will swing more around.

They have to, in order to get the club face to square back up consistently at impact. Stuart doesn't have that problem because he keeps the club face very quiet. You'll note that his shoulder is going to get very steep to keep the club face from turning over aggressively, and this will affect his follow through position.

Club through left shoulder, shoulder plane matches upClub through left shoulder, shoulder plane matches up

In the final photo the club is coming up through his left shoulder rather than underneath the shoulder as you might see in a more typical one plane golfer who releases the club around their body in order to square the club face up.

You won't see that here with Stuart because he keeps it very quiet. The club comes up more through his shoulder, then his shoulder plane starts to match back up. The club is definitely more upright than it was on the way back. Again, this is all part of the overall dynamics of his swing, to keep the ball from going left. The final phase of Stuart's release is a nice, full, fluid follow through.

Overall, it's a fantastic golf swing and a model of power and simplicity. It's a great model for any one planer to study and learn more about what's going on in the swing.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • Stuart Appleby's swing is simple, yet powerful and dynamic
  • He gets about 45° of spine angle, placing his shoulders out over his toes
  • Stuart keeps the club face very square to the plane line on the backswing
  • His shaft plane is parallel to the plane established at address, and is basically in line with the ball
  • His shoulder plane is very flat at the top, but steepens on the downswing to avoid hooking the ball
  • Keeping the club face very square means he doesn't have to manipulate the club through impact
  • He releases his right arm through the ball - often considered a two plane trait

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