Sports Consultant

Features - October 6th, 2006
Tom Watson

Tom Watson of Windsor Park Golf and Country Club

Lesson: Swinging into Action

The most important part of the golf swing for achiev­ing good ball flight is the swing plane. It’s important for every serious golfer to understand their own swing plane and to correct or improve their ball flight.

What is swing plane?

Swing plane is how the club travels on a path (or arc) during the entire golf swing.

What are the types of swing plane?

The one I see in 90 percent of amateur golfers is the “in to out” swing path, where the club travels to the inside of the backswing (photo 1) and then on the downswing travels to the outside of the ball (photo 2). Too much “in to out” will cause a big slice (left to right ball flight) or a shot that will go straight left and a big decrease in distance as the club is coming down so steep on the ball.

The “out to in” swing plane is used by maybe 80 percent of professionals. It creates more distance as the club travels more shallow to the ball, but if your swing plane has to much “out to in” with the backswing going out (photo 3) and the downswing coming in (photo 4), it will cause a big hook (right to left ball flight) or the ball will go straight right of the club head.

How do I know what my swing plane is?

If you are taking big chunky divots and slicing, you have an “in to out” swing plane. If you are hooking the ball or hitting the ground first a long way behind the ball, you have an “out to in” swing path.

How can I improve my swing plane?

For fixing an “in to out” swing plane, try hitting a lot of balls with a short iron (eight, nine, or wedge) from a very high tee. Don’t hit the tee out of the ground. This will automatically promote your swing plane to come from the inside, and stop the club coming in so steep to the ball. It is very important to hit many golf balls as this swing plane is very difficult to change. Once you have mastered hitting the ball only from a tee, try hitting some balls without the tee.

For fixing an “out to in” swing plane, play the ball po­sition more forward in your stance (photo 5) rather than the middle (also photo 5). Use a five or six iron. Continue until you start to take regular divots from the forward ball position, then move the ball back and practice that same feeling. Good luck with working on your swing plane and I hope your game improves.