How to Tell If You Have a Flat Golf Swing

The beauty of golf is that there are many ways to get the job done. Previously, I focused on the inside out swing, designed to induce a right-to-left shot shape. However,  in this review, my mission is to eliminate your slice by teaching you how to tell if you have a flat golf swing.

In addition, I will outline the pros and cons of swinging this way to help you decide if it suits your game. While it can keep you straight and help maximize ball speed and distance, you rely heavily on timing, which is a lot to fathom as a beginner.

 

What is a Flat Golf Swing?

Below, golf coach Mark Crossfield describes a flat golf swing as your hands working around your body. Effectively, the clubhead finishes behind your lead shoulder instead of above it. 

 

In this next video, the PGA Tour showcases Sergio Garcia’s swing, providing a prime example of a player who flattens the plane as he commences his downswing. However, his posture, hip, and shoulder rotation help him get the ball back on plane. A 2014 CBS report quoted Geoff Ogilvy saying that Sergio’s ball-striking skills are in the league of Ben Hogan.

 

However, that doesn’t mean you should emulate the Spaniard. Because there are severe risks associated with this setup.

If a flatter swing backswing is working for you, and you get the club parallel to your target on the downswing, then stick with it. Just be careful not to lower the shaft on the way down as it is increasingly difficult to keep the club on plane for solid contact. 

You need to extend your shoulders and hips to get the clubface rotation to get the clubface square at impact. That can lead to you leaving the club face open and prompting a slice or pushing it right.

Ultimately, a flat backswing is not an issue. It is how you go about bringing your club shaft parallel with your target on the downswing.

 

How to Tell if You Have a Flat Swing

Following the advice of Crossfield, we know that we have a flat plane if the clubhead is behind your left shoulder for right-handers.

Furthermore, Me And My Golf suggest that your swing is flat if the top of your right arm elbow sits against your torso. That may restrict your arms and makes it difficult to free them up and enable them to guide the club back on plane. Failure to do this leads to an in-to-out path and leaves you susceptible to fade or slice.

The third way to identify if you have a flatter plane is to video your left arm movement during your backswing. Master Instructor Anne Cain recommends that you pull your left arm across your shirt and swing back instead of up.

The best way to identify these points is to attend a few coaching sessions with an expert. But, if you prefer the DIY approach, you can video yourself while practicing and look for the above clues.

 

Pros of a Flat Golf Swing

Clubhead Speed

Cain explains that swinging your golf club along a flatter plane causes your club to travel further than on a steep angle of attack. That enables you to generate optimal velocity on your downswing and connect the ball cleanly, producing a high coefficient of restitution (COR). As a result, you enjoy rapid ball speed and increased distance.

In addition to the travel distance of the club head, optimal rotation is necessary to get the clubhead on the path adds to the energy production.

Coefficient Of Restitution (COR)

COR refers to the energy transferred from the clubface to the ball at impact. If your clubhead speed is slow, you will struggle to maintain COR, leading to less ball speed, a weak launch, and reduced distance.

Thanks to the increased velocity prompted by a flat golf swing, it helps you accelerate clubhead speed for optimal COR at impact. Therefore, you produce increased distance compared to a steep swing plane.

Ball Speed

As a result of the energy transferred from the clubface to the golf ball at impact, you enjoy explosive speed. The rapid velocity of the ball promotes maximum distance in your game.

Distance

When you achieve optimal clubhead and ball speed, you enjoy sublime distance. That results in more mid to short irons into the green and improves your chance of carding more pars or birdies in a round.

 

Cons of a Flat Golf Swing

Slices

There is no doubt that the ultimate advantage of a flat golf swing plane is its COR, ball speed, and distance abilities. However, if your shot flies far and lands in the woods, it defeats the purpose of distance.

One struggle that players with flat golf swings suffer is a slice or fade ball flight. This is caused by the player not getting the shaft on plane during the downswing due to insufficient rotation. As a result, you swing from in to out and leave the face open at impact.

If you can optimize hip and shoulder turn and get the club back parallel to the target on the backswing, you will overcome this.

Hooks

Contrary to players suffering a slice, Mark Crossfield exhibits how some flat swings lead to a closed clubface at impact, prompting a hook. If you have a flat backswing and cast the club from the top of your downswing, you will not get the clubhead or shaft on path, and it can cause you to strike the ball from outside in.

Topped Shots

The final risk of a flat swing is that you top your shots. When you feel uncomfortable on your downswing and feel that you may not strike it cleanly, it causes amateurs to lean back out of the shot and come up on it. That means that your clubhead can strike the turf before the ball and bounce up, catching the top of the dimples.

 

Pro Players Who Have Flat Swings

Cain suggests that Matt Kuchar is the professional player who epitomizes a flat or diagonal swing, as she calls it. As I explained, Kuch moves his left arm around the body significantly, leading to the clubhead dipping lower than his trailing shoulder at the top of the downswing.

Chad Campbell is another player who operates with a flatter swing, as Golf Digest explains.

Sergio Garcia has a steeper backswing compared to Kuchar. However, he lowers the club at the top of his swing to shallow it out. He then follows this plane all the way down to the ball.

 

What to Do if You Want to Fix a Flat Golf Swing

Step 1 – Takeaway

Although your takeaway has little bearing on the impact of your shot, it can help you produce a favorable swing path for solid contact. Most golfers with shallow swings rotate their hands around their body, which puts your clubhead in an awkward position to get it back on plane during the downswing.

I suggest focusing on taking your club back and then up to fix a flat swing. That will encourage a slightly upright swing. This will enable you to freely move your arms to bring your shaft and clubhead pointing at the target when your club is parallel to the ground.

When you rotate your right and left wrist around your body, you need to compensate during your downswing. This is achieved by twisting your upper and lower body extensively. 

As a result, it helps you position your clubhead and shaft in line with the target when the club is parallel to the turf.

Step 2 – Downswing

The downswing is vital to crack the modern fundamentals of golf. If your shaft and clubhead are not pointing at your target when parallel to the tee box or fairway, you risk opening or closing the face at impact.

When your takeaway is along a steeper path, it is easier for amateurs to bring the club back on plane from the top of the downswing.

Instead of rotating your hands back around your body, use the momentum from your leg drive and upper body rotation to bring the club down. 

Ensure that when your shaft is parallel to the ground, the clubhead faces along your target line, otherwise, you will not have enough time to get the face square at impact.

Step 3 – Impact

Once you have steps 1 and 2 waxed, the final stage is to strike the ball. Even if the first two steps are executed to perfection, your clubface position at impact determines the accuracy and distance of your shot.

If your clubhead is facing the target when the shaft is parallel to the ground, you are on track to square your club up for impact. If you leave your face open or swing from in to out, you risk slicing your shot. 

Conversely, should you over-rotate your arms around your body, the club will follow an out-to-in path and cause you to hook your ball.

Following the above 3 steps will help you reduce shallowing of your club and the risk of slicing and hooking your shots. Therefore it is easier for the average golfer to swing more upright than flat. Plus, it encourages superior accuracy.

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.