Swing Plane: The Right Elbow Plane
Critical, But Often Overlooked
The Right Elbow Plane
There are 3 inclined planes often talked about in the golf swing. The shaft plane, the shoulder plane and the elbow plane. I believe the right elbow plane (for right handers) is often overlooked and misunderstood. In fact, I bet if you asked most people who have taken golf lessons if they ever heard about the right elbow swinging on a plane the answer would be "no".
The goal with every golf swing is to create a repeatable, desired ball flight. Simply put...to make the ball go where you want it to. To make this possible, you need to return the club to square and on the same plane it started on at address. That would be the original shaft plane. How the right elbow moves directly affects whether or not your club will remain on the original shaft plane. The shoulder plane does not have as much influence. For instance, you can start your shoulders back way too steep and get them off of their original plane, but find a way with your arms and hands to keep the club on it's original shaft plane. If your right elbow moves all over the place though, the club shaft will go with it. When this happens at any point in the swing, at least one, but probably more than one manipulation will have to be manufactured to recover.
To locate your right elbow plane take a set up in front of a mirror and draw an imaginary line from the ball through your right elbow. In a sound swing the right elbow will slide up and down on this plane line. Letting the right elbow get behind or underneath its plane line will get the club too flat or trapped behind the body. If it stays there during the downswing, the result is either a block to the right (for a right hander) or the golfer will compensate by looping it over the top of the plane on the way down. Over the top will result in a pull hook if the face is closed or a slice if the face is open.
On the flip side moving the right elbow away from the body on the takeaway to the outside disconnects the arms from the body weakening the golf swing. This will usually result in an outside in down swing which would cause a pull or a slice depending on if the club face is open or closed. Some players will re-route the club to compensate and actually drop it too far inside which results in a block or a hook. It is easy to see how ball flight can be unpredictable with an off plane elbow. Furthermore, the more the club shaft moves around, the more energy it loses resulting in a loss of distance. Understanding and working on the elbow plane can help you get on your way to more efficient consistency and power.
Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.