The Plane: It's The Right Arm's Job

BY Paul Smith

Following straight on from Part One in which we addressed what constitutes a plane we will now get to work on your own swing plane.

The swing plane is essentially controlled by the right arm as it controls the clubshaft. The left arm with its extensor action, provided by the right arm, follows for the ride. So at this stage we only have to concentrate thought on what our right side is up to.

There is a reason why we do not use a golf club while practicing these drills. The tools we are using are so light they require no strength to manoeuvre. Therefore, while practicing you will learn the feel of the movement without the distraction of the weight of a club in hand. You will soon learn what goes where and to feel your hands moving about, or not, and ultimately what that means to your clubshaft control.

Our eyes are very powerful learning tools. Making movements in slow motion allows us, like beginners at karate, to see and feel the mechanical movements needed to achieve a certain result.

Look, Look, Look

Use your eyes to teach your body to move into correct golfing positions then feel what it is like to be in that position. Let mechanics produce feel. Let feel then reproduce mechanics. This, by the way, is not muscle memory. Muscles do not have memory. Our brains have the ability to fathom out senses, which are produced by our brains instructing muscles to move; hence training our brain to control our motions.

Also I stress this is not position golf. By that I mean it is not about getting your hands from A to B to C. It is about the relationships in the movements between the places as a whole which constitute geometry.

The Backswing Plane Drills

In article one I suggested a trip to the hardware store to acquire three 1.25m lengths of dowel. These will provide all we need for our first drill to work on our planes. Find yourself a large mirror (and high ceilings to avoid the other half complaining about the scratches on walls and roof) or use the garden where you can see your reflection in a window.

Now follow Figures 1, 2 and 3 which show you how to hold the dowels. Refer to Part One of The Plane for further images.

Note that the right wrist is bent as it would be at set up as described in Article One.

Figure 4 below shows that if you increase the bend in your right wrist during the backswing you are thrown off the original plane and the end result is too flat. The base of the higher dowel is now pointing outside the base of the flight line dowel on the ground ñ that is, where we want to be. This is a common problem among many higher handicappers. Notice that the right wrist has bent more than when it was at set up. Movement in the wrist has taken the dowel off plane.

Figure 5 below shows the dowel too steep and off plane again. The remainder of higher handicapper golfers fall into this category, with the top dowel aiming significantly inside the flight line dowel. Notice how the right wrist has flattened out. Movement has again taken it off plane. Disaster awaits each of these off plane positions unless you have amazing coordination to find the right plane on the way back down.

Figure 6 below shows that you need to do nothing with your right wrist to keep yourself on plane. It is that simple. Most golfers use their right wrist to try and get extra zip into their shots. If I cock my left wrist and that works, surely adding some bend into the right one will also pay dividends. No. All you have to do is maintain the initial bend in the right wrist from set up to stay on plane and lift the right arm up and back. The right wrist should be “set and forget”.

The Downswing

Here is how we swing the club back.

We can either raise our right arm up in a straight arm fashion or we can bend it at the elbow right from the start. The straight arm movement is weak and from this position it is hard to propel anything without first bending our elbow to get any real leverage. So this movement should be filed in the ’not related to golf’ bin.

The correct movement is simple. Think about how you throw a ball. Your right arm starts to bend and lift to position back behind your ear, your elbow well away from your side. It is the same sort of motion made on an inclined plane which we use in a golf stroke.

By the way, this drill also proves taking the club back “low and slow” actually takes you off plane and is not a recommended backswing procedure. To make that move your right arm does not bend in a lifting motion from the start. It stays straight which will result in the left shoulder dipping ñ the beginnings of a reverse pivot.

Flashlight Drill

Another way of seeing this all in action is to get two flashlights and tape the butt ends together with the lenses pointing away from each other. Find yourself a long wall, or grout line and set up parallel to the line which we will call the base of our plane, with the light shining on the line.

Now make a slow backswing motion. As you swing slowly backwards the light must stay on the line until your shaft gets to the parallel position. From this point on the opposite light should now shine on the line all the way to parallel at the top. If the light is shining inside the line then your plane line is too steep. If it is outside the line you are too flat.

Pay attention to the lights position as you cock your wrist. The left wrist must be cocked on-plane to avoid disruption of the lights movement across the base of the flight line.

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    About the Author: Paul Smith

    Paul Smith holds a Master Craftsman's rank certified by the Golf Clubmakers Association in the USA and is one of only 220 Authorised Instructors of The Golfing Machine (Bachelors in Golf Stroke Engineering). Clients get a first class education session whether it be fixing a swing fault or building clubs from scratch to suit a player's ability.


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