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By Donald Crawley, Golf Contributor - Archive - Email
Fix the swing plane
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For all the readers of last month's article, "Steep or shallow," if you missed that one look in GolfSimplied archives here on

Steep is referring to an upright or vertical swing. Shallow is referring to a flat, or more horizontal, swing. Once your swing tendency has been correctly diagnosed, you will need some help to fix the correct angle and get you back on plane.

Davis Love
Steeper or upright swing.
Let's tackle the steep swing and define the traits. If the club head swings along the target line too long, the arms swing in a vertical plane, and often (but not always) the shoulders turn in a tilted steep plane (picture the left shoulder pointing down at the ground and the right shoulder at the sky), the end result is a steep vertical swing plane with the club way above your head at the top of the backswing. The results from too steep a swing are: deep divots topped or skied tee shots. Toe hits. You will tend to be better with irons than woods. You will be best with short irons.

The quickest way to fix that steep plane is to practice with the ball above your feet. Imagine T- Ball that your kids or grand kids play before they start real baseball. The ball is teed up on a tall plastic tee, often two feet off of the ground. This is a bit extreme but you get the point. I don't know of anyone that makes 24-inch tees but anything off the ground helps.

Head for a slide slope where the ball sits shin high. In order to make solid contact with the ball, and not the ground, your swing plane needs to be flattened. You can make a slightly taller posture - chin up, back straight. Make a conscious effort to turn your shoulders in a much more horizontal plane, and swing your arms and club around your back in a flat plane, like a merry-go-round. At the top of your backswing, your hands and club will be behind, not above, your right rear shoulder. Swing through the ball on this same flat plane skimming the grass, not digging in, and allowing your belt, hips and shoulders to unwind in a level, or more horizontal, plane. The club will finish lower and left of your left, front shoulder. If you find this side-hill situation where you can hit balls, you can change your swing plane in minutes. Best club to practice this with is a fairway wood or hybrid.

Matt Kuchar
Flatter swing plane.
If you can't find such a side-hill, you can at least take some practice swings with the club held out in front of you hovering at knee height. A successful flatter, more rounded swing plane and arc will exaggerate the closing of the clubface through impact. Consequently, without changing your grip you may be able to convert yourself from a steep slicer to a flatter draw ball flight.

The quickest fix of a flat swing plane, and I happen to fit into that category, is to practice off the opposite slope, where the ball is resting below the level of my feet. Use a mid-iron or hybrid. At address you have to tip more forward and over at the hips. Be careful that your weight isn't too far over your toes, dig your knees in a bit, feeling your weight across your feet and that you are securely balanced. From this address swing the club straight up over your head but turn your shoulders at a steep angle. Your hands will feel high above your head at the top of the backswing. Picture a Ferris wheel. Straight back and up. From the top, swing the arms and club down to hit the bottom of the ball, as your body unwinds. Maintaining this bent over posture isn't easy and it requires some strength in your core. If you top the ball, you have stood up out of your posture. Keep your butt out and stay bent at the hips. My feeling is to keep my chest angled over the ball through impact. When you make a more correct steeper swing, the face of the club tends to open so you will fade the ball from this lie.

As a quick summary, if you struggle with the driver, practice with the ball above your feet (to flatten your swing plane). If irons are your weakness, practice with the ball below your feet (to steepen your swing plane) and on plane swing, one that will produce solid shots and thin divots.

Recently voted Top-10 in Best Teachers in State of Arizona by Golf Digest. Also, contributing Golf Writer and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.

When Scottsdale beckons and golf awaits, a call to Donald Crawley at The Boulders is a must.

Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Ariz. Crawley, a veteran of 35 years of teaching experience, is the newest contributor to The Sports Network with regular features that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980,previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs' Golf Schools.

Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002 & 2005, he won the Southwest Section PGA's Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.

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