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Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:17 am
by lagpressure
This question came up yesterday with a young player who was trying to get his swing more upright. It struck me because I have been working on flattening my swing out, which is something I have been wanting to do for a long time but didn’t have the time to do it back when I was competing on tour.

There is an interesting yin and yang ideal here.

The flat swing should hit the ball straighter, while the upright swing should give a golfer the chance for a longer more powerful motion… more time on the downswing to generate velocity.

To demonstrate the ideal of flat being the straight option, for simplicity sake, let’s take a club with zero loft… let’s call it a zero iron. If you were to stand tall, fairly close to ball, and swing very upright, you would have a vast array of direction possibilities. If you came OTT you could hit extreme pulls and even chop it and shoot the ball between your legs.
Likewise you could hit from the inside and easily push the ball off to the right 45 degrees with an inside out motion.

Now if you look at the opposite situation, let’s put the same golfer on their knees, now swinging on a very flat plane..and hit the same kind of shots. The OTT swing actually just hits the ball lower. Likewise, with an inside out swing you would have a very difficult time hitting pushing the ball or starting it way right assuming you’re fully extented.
In other words, with a zero loft club, open and closing the clubface has more to do with trajectory and not direction. Shut face low, open face high shots.. from this extreme flat plane model.

Now if you look at the games straitest hitters, certainly some flat swings come to mind.
For me, Hogan, Trevino, Moe Norman. If you look at the world’s longest hitters, long drive champions and so on, you see a lot of very upright swings.

How many of you have experimented or had thoughts on making your swing more upright or flat? and if so, what were your reasons for doing so?

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:24 am
by lagpressure
Picking the correct swing plane for your basic motion is very important.
What would seem like such a simple thing can become extremely complex and confusing for many.

The swing plane can be a true flat plane for putting and chip shots, but if anyone has ever tried to build a swing plane that is truly flat, cut a hole in the middle and tried to swing on this perfect plane you will quickly realize that the plane that you address the club on is not the plane you are going to be taking full swings on. This one plane concept would put a golfer’s hands just above waist high at the top of their backswing, and of course the same mirrored position would be applied to the finish if golf where such a perfect world.

This address picture shows a pretty standard address position.

as.jpg (11.44 KiB) Viewed 43936 times

From the 1rst parallel, the plane shifts to something more upright.
You could think of the plane resting on a set of hinges that attach to the plane line on the ground. As the club moves from the 1rst parallel to the top, the plane would lift as if someone was pushing up on it from behind you, all the while the plane is still connected to the hinges that are on the ground resting on your target line.

It can of course be ignored on the backswing, but not as easily on the downswing. This plane, as it has been lifted from P1 to P2, must then come back down. This plane shift is the cause of much drama and confusion for golfers of all walks of life. Even the Jim Furyk’s of the world are making a huge out to in move to assist in this back down to the impact plane. It certainly makes more sense to pick the club up and drop it back “in” then to go the other way, although that motion has been done effectively too (Raymond Floyd)... but the out to in offers a smooth circular flow that can aid in a golfers rhythm and feel.

Obviously there are a lot of ways to get the club to the top. Most good golfers will favor an out to in looping action if they are attempting to get rid of their beginners slice.

Another point of confusion is that our eyes are not in line with the plane of the club. No one I have ever seen swings on an “eye plane”. This of course would offer the best view for a straight back straight through visual line… and the golfer would see not arc or circle… but human beings are just not design for such a beautiful application. Instead we are visually looking down at the plane, and a shifting one also from a bird’s eye view.

To further confuse us, our clubshaft compresses into our body on the downswing, (or a least is should!) so even if we did use such a perfect plane, the arc that we see on the downswing is going to be much different than that arc we see on our take away. It’s really no wonder that golf is such an incredible mystery and endless point of confusion for most all golfers, and I can assure you I spent many moons in contemplation on this very subject and still continue to do so.

Now knowing that we must make such a plane shift, it would be obvious that the less we have to shift, the simpler and more repeatable our motion can be. I believe this is in fact very true.
But of course the greater this shift, the longer our swing can be,
the less the body has to get involved, and we can attain a certain amount of power from just having a really long swing. Putting acceleration aside, our instinct is usually to take a longer backswing
to hit the ball further. Of course this big plane shift opens the door for a whole lot of potential problems in the swing. How do we get back to that original flat plane that we started on?

What are you feeling in your swing and the search for your correct swing plane?

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:27 am
by lagpressure
Given that there are many ways to arrive at the same position at the top, as we are all quite aware by the vast array of backswings we see.
The trip back down doesn’t have as many possibilities.

The upright swing plane certainly offers it’s challenges to get the club back down to impact or elbow plane. The most common and easiest would be to come down with steep shoulders. A slide of the hips helps this action too. This also tends to work well with a swingers “dump” into the ball. Steep shoulders would be a better choice for the player who doesn’t have a fast body rotation. The steep delivery works nicely with a full roll horizontal hinging action.

A flat downswing shoulder turn is the recipe for OTT. This of course can be countered by using the right arm to straighten on the downswing. This is tough stuff for most golfers. Teaching a player to turn flat, but at the same time, straighten the right arm is very difficult to do, and more difficult to teach. I can’t think of a move in the golf swing that could feel more unnatural. It can be done however, and Mac O Grady is really big on this procedure. If a player can master it, it is a very powerful and effective way to get back down to impact plane.

The flat backswing player really wants to just “do away with” as much of this plane shifting confusion as possible. It certainly makes sense from intellectual view, less shift the better, more repeatable.
But the problem for most people that try a flat backswing is they don’t have the ability to rotate fast enough to make up for the loss of swing radius. Most golfer’s lose distance, don’t have the forearm rotational speed to provide a good deal of power accumulator #3 as well.

The big advantage of the flat backswing beyond the minimal plane shifting is that a player can really hit hard with the body on the way down. The golfer doesn’t have to wait, or be gentle with the shift back down as does the upright swing. The short compact and quick looking swing, that has that “simple” look can really work well if the golfer can learn to rotate quickly, and then apply a lot of #3 forearm rotation.

Hogan loved the super flat action, and it worked great for him because he really had some of the best body rotational speed and great forearm rotation. He could just turn as hard and fast as he wanted with the body, but this ONLY works if the arms are packed hard into the body and the plane is quite flat.

An upright swing with a super fast rotational transition is an absolute train wreck. The only chance to do this would be to loop the club from out to in, so that the club is literally thrown down into the slot,
and never feels like it stops.. I’ve seen this action work if done right.

I do think this is one of the most misunderstood concepts (plane)
and it would be great to hear more from everyone here about their feelings and experiences, in the quest for perfecting and understanding the action and motion that works best for the individual.

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:33 am
by lagpressure
In TGM, hands plane would be where the player sets up with the hands very low, and the right elbow would be significantly above the plane of the shaft. More often than not, these hands plane set ups have the toe of the club raised in the air, their hands usually come into the impact area much higher than they were at address. With the hands super low at address, it gives the golfer a pre cocked wrist condition, and helps a player set the hands early if that is their intention. I have seen a lot of good players with this kind of action.

Elbow plane is where most golfers and good players set up. Here the right forearm basically sets right on the plane of the shaft.

On the other extreme, you have a shoulder plane set up, here you have the golfer set up with the clubshaft and arms in a line that dissect
the shoulder.

Here are classic examples of three plane options

Aoki (hands) Hogan (elbow) Moe Norman (Shoulder)

Hogan starts roughly on elbow, shifts to just below shoulder, then back down to elbow and holds that tight over to the 4rth parallel.

Height does play into your plane, Mac O'Grady suggests bending the knees more at address to help flatten the plane for taller golfers.
By bending the knees, a golfer can get their torso more erect therefore setting up for a flatter rotation.

It’s interesting to hear about your success with a flatter plane.
Your attempts at a faster body rotation are admirable and you should continue to pursue this if you would like more distance.
The faster you turn, the farther you can hit it, and also create more lag pressure in your hands which will lead to greater feel in your hands. Assuming you are also turning flat through the ball, you’ll have to coordinate your wrist rotation to match your body speed, and if you are hitting it to the right, you’ll need stronger quicker hands rotating through the ball. Again I would assume you are hitting with a angled hinge action (no roll) through impact.

It’s very important also… to understand that the lie you have your clubs set at (flat or upright) is the right lie for your swing based upon the type of plane you choose to swing on. Players who like the idea of working toward a flat impact plane will be doomed by irons that are set up too upright.

Most golfers, from pro’s to amateurs…. do not bring their hands back to impact on the same plane they set up on, so be aware of this when you are getting your clubs set up. Also, most golfers bring their hands in much higher than they should into impact, and to get your irons set up to these alignments will have you doomed to that plane for as long as you own that set..

Personally I am a huge advocate of swinging on as flat a plane though impact as possible… and setting your irons up to your ideal impact alignments, is the best way to go.

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:35 am
by lagpressure
If you take a look at the photos I posted above of the three typical options for set up, we are forced to do some shifting of the plane, unless we set up like Moe Norman. Moe does the smallest shifting of swing planes I have ever seen and is also the straightest striker I have ever witnessed. I am too young to have seen Hogan in person but I have seen him on film and he appears to be equally impressive. I don’t think Aoki will go down in history as one of the great strikers of all time, but a great golfer nonetheless. He shows that extremely low hands at address are viable to some degree as an address option.
I can assure you his hands don’t come into impact that low though.

The important thing to remember is that you must be on plane from parallel 3 to parallel 4 while moving the club through the hitting area.

Easier said than done. The body can affect the path, the arms, the hands, cocking of the wrists, rotation of the wrists, all can have major impact on the path of the club and the position of the shaft in relation to a true textbook plane.

The beauty of Hogan is that his plane was very pure in both directions, and by having the shaft so on plane both to and from the ball he could swing the club very fast, both back and down. If you have a lot of manipulation going on it is very difficult to do this.
I like a quick tempo if the mechanics and geometry are correct. It keeps the swing more automatic, less time for over thinking during the swing, and provides the golfer with more feel in the hands through the outward centrifugal forces created by the sheer rotational speed both back and through.

The flashlight drill is excellent to get you in the ball park but the hands can still do all kinds of manipulations to get the light to point at the wall if not monitored correctly. Video taping from behind is very good to see both the path of the hands and the rotation of the wrists in relation to plane line. Taking backswings along a bench is good for that purpose only, backswing, I don’t like it at all for the downswing.

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:44 am
by lagpressure
I have heard that Hogan had his irons bent 6 to 8 degrees flat off standard which would make sense since he was not a tall guy. If someone really wanted to know for sure, you could just measure the angle off an old film clip if you knew what club he was hitting. A nice “straight from behind” shot of an iron from the fairway would be good if you could catch it at impact. You would then take off 1/2 a degree for the flattening of the lie due to shaft flex (bowing down) and that would get you pretty close to what Hogan had his irons set at.

It’s true you won’t find much variation between the really good ball strikers at impact.. slight forward lean of the shaft and a flat left wrist.
But even at the pro level, there are differences too. The guys that strike it the best do bring into impact a shaft that is more pre stressed
and do hold the flex of the shaft longer than other players.

As far as a loop goes, I like the one you described above, steeper to flatter on the way down, because you have to get the shaft back down to your impact plane (elbow plane). I have seen a lot of great players with this type of action. A loop allows the good player to keep their hands in constant motion from start to finish, and this is also beneficial for the rhythm and feel of the swing. I can’t see why it would be advantageous to actually stop the hands completely, then change direction and hit the ball. It’s a good drill to educate the hands, but not advisable to interfere with the fluidity of a good players swing.

One of my good friends who was a fine tour player and won many events around the world is now teaching full time, and he tries to instruct his students to hook the ball first as I do. If he can get them to move the club inside out and on a flat plane, he says he then has something to work with. From there he can work with their aiming point, low point, and type of release action to convert the hook into a powerful motion that hits it straight fairly easily. The OTT cutting motion that most amateurs apply is a dead end road. There is only so far you can go before you have to do the full swing overhaul.

As far as drills go… swinging back along the outside of a bench has some logic for the backswing but not the down swing.
I would not be as big a fan of flashlight drills as some.. because the hands can do a lot of manipulating with arms in the wrong places.

I really have yet to find a perfect swing plane drill that completely sets up the player for a flawless motion. It’s just not that simple in the full swing. Because of the fact that we don’t swing on an “eye plane” where the club would appear to move back and forth in a straight line, we are bombarded with endless optical illusions because we are looking down on the plane from above it. We see two different arcs (takeaway, and delivery) the plane shifts in a way that we can’t just build a plane out of plywood in the garage and swing on it. It won’t work for any swing past the 1rst parallel.

First you must choose between hitting and swinging.
Then you must get the body and torso to move the correct way to match that protocol.

Second you have to train the arms the correct movements to match that chosen torso rotation.

Thirdly you then train and educate the hands to move the shaft on plane based upon the motion of the body, torso, and arm action.

I don’t think there is a substitute for the watchful eye of a qualified instructor. Video is very helpful too. It won’t lie to you.

Before I would make a suggestion as to the ideal swing plane for a player, I would asses their body type, height and flexibility. I would then determine their proper impact fix for their body and size. Then we would go bend all their clubs. Then I would asses their forearm strength and potential for torso rotational speed, and left knee, left hip action. Then I would focus on their backswing length based upon whether or not they are hitting or swinging, and how flexible their torso can rotate, and the amount of extensor action they are comfortable applying. Finally I would have to look at the torso flexibility at the finish and the overall range of motion between the torso and the hips. Once all this is accounted for, then a swing plane prescription can be written.

I just don’t think there is a one plane for everyone protocol, or any universal drills that would be the same for everyone either regarding the backswing.

This swing plane concept, to really get it right, to maximize the full long term potential of any given player is really tough stuff. Not impossible by any means though.

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:53 am
by lagpressure
I don’t think you could put a razor between Hogan’s left arm and chest. Bob Torrance is not teaching Hogan’s swing to Padraig.
It is quite obvious they are spending much more time on hitting consistent wedge shots and short irons.

If you look at Padraig you see an upright swing. Hogan would be the opposite.. flat. I would only say flat, in that it is flat compared to today’s more modern swings. The golf swing has changed right along with the equipment players now use. Hogan had a swing that was perfect for that era in time. Golf courses played much longer than they do now.
The golfers of the past had to pull long irons from their bags often 6 times a round… it takes a more dynamic swing to hit these clubs properly with good height, spin and control. Hogan knew that if he could gain an advantage here, he would be more successful. With a lot of drive, dedication, analyzing and contemplation he figured out how to best do this, and hit hundreds of thousands of balls in his quest for perfection.

Padraig is typical in that his swing is geared toward shorter irons.
A sweeping more gradual release on the downswing works very well for short irons, and teed drivers with larger lighter heads. Players today often carry 4 or 5 wedges, and the game has become more and more about what happens inside 130 yards. Ironically, golf has become more about the short game and wedge shots than it was 50 years ago. Golf in the old era was much more a game of power and tough to hit long irons and fairway woods. Another factor is the greens themselves. Greens are truer and roll purer than they ever did back in the era of Hogan and Palmer. Putting was not nearly as important as it is today, and the players of today have much better putting strokes than they did in years past.

Swing Plane Illusions

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:11 am
by lagpressure
Inside out swing path is very misunderstood. This as I have said before if because visually we look down on the plane from above… so from that vantage point we see the club moving in a circle… and this circle is going to be visually different going back than coming down…typically a bigger circle going back, smaller circle coming down.

Now if our eyes were in line with the plane we swing on, we would not see the arc of the clubhead, but the club would appear to move back and forth in a straight line. But as humans, we don’t get to see this.
Maybe we could putt like this?

Now TGM talks about hitting the inside quadrant, inside out and so forth… but again it is not really quite like this either.

The hands will appear to aim the butt end of the club right into 4:30
on the back of the ball… but then as the hands approach the ball,
(cocked and turned) the wrists swivel or rotate into the ball and the clubhead nails into the ball right at 3:00 (3:20 if you want to get technical to allow for compression and separation).

There are two ways to do this… (rotation of the wrists #3 power accumulator) first, you can rely on physics to do this, a mathematical formula that has to do with centrifugal force, angles, mass, and Inertia. P = mv or F = ma for you technical junkies.
This is the automatic release talked about in TGM. PASSIVE

This does work, but it makes two assumptions (huge in my opinion).
First, that the wrist are free and flexible.
Second, that acceleration is both steady and even.

If you interfere with the above, in any way, the shaft and clubhead can do any number of horrific and disastrous things.

The second way is to do this non automatically.. as discussed in TGM. In this case you fire the wrists with a muscular force, ACTIVE and not PASSIVE.

Here the hands also aim at 4:30, but at the last second, they fire and rotate squaring the club into the back of the ball 3:00 making a straight divot that basically aims right down the target or flight line.

Sounds easy, but the catch is that the body must still be moving faster than this sudden slashing motion of the hands. This is where you see the fast left hip that aids in the fast torso rotation of the upper body that supplies power to the #4 (left armpit) pressure point.
This really is advanced ball striking class, but if you can get it…
it’s worth a try..
this feels tight, firm deliberate, while the prior (automatic) would feel smooth, relaxed, and trusting.

Either way, it’s important to place the ball just prior to your low point.
(usually just inside the left heel, or straight down from the left armpit)

Re: Flat vs Upright

PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:47 pm
by lagpressure
I agree that flat is a very subjective observation. In my opinion Hogan was not flat at all. Flatter than Nicklaus? of course.

Was Trevino flat?
Moe Norman?

Compared to most… yes..

But what is right?

If my objective is to be the next world long drive champ, upright is the way to go.

If I want to thread needle like fairways and pepper postage stamp greens with birdie putts, I’ll go flat..
I must add, however, if flat is done correctly, flat can also be very long within a hitter's protocol particularly.

Laying off the shaft

PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:07 pm
by lagpressure
My feeling on the laid off shaft starting the downswing is that can spell disaster for swingers, yet can be an excellent move for hitters.

A strong #3 accumulator rotation (forearm rotation into the ball) will put the shaft right back on plane from the 3rd parallel into impact.
A non automatic stiff wristed slapping action is right up the alley for the hitter’s protocol, and that little extra clubhead’s range of motion can be a great extra power source for the #3 accumulator. I especially like it with double wrist action (bent left wrist that will flatten into impact).

The bent left wrist will open the clubface even more, and allow more #3 range of motion, and also encourages the body to turn more into impact to “visually” square the clubface.