Sunday, February 7, 2010

Update On Understanding 'Swinging Left'

Part of my blog is to discover new things, admit when I was wrong on things in the past and to come up with new ways to explain things that I've been working on.

One term we have been working constantly with is 'swinging left' and why is it important and such. We've also been working on Trackman definitions and how to get the optimal numbers for hitting it dead straight. Along with understanding the differences between 'swinging left' properly and making that dreaded, cutting across 'over the top' move. I think that lately I have come up with ways to better decipher what all of this means and why it is important. And a special thanks goes to NYC Lagster and Brian Manzella for helping me understand this better.

Why is swinging left important?

Because it allows the golfer to stay on plane 'past impact.' Here's a great video of NYC Lagster on a swing plane. Notice at the end he purposedly throws the club and even though he's swinging his hands to the left, his club goes right down at the target.

But take a look at the swing plane training aid. In order to stay on that plane post impact, the golfer HAS to swing to the left quite a bit.

Here's a photo sequence of mine before I started on working on 'swinging left.' (click the pic to enlarge)

If you look at the last photo of me from the DTL view in the upper right hand corner, you can see the clubshaft 'exiting' almost to the right of my left shoulder. If we were to photoshop a swing plane training aid, my clubshaft would be WELL off and above the swing plane training aid.

In fact if you ever get a chance to get on one of these swing plane training aids or the Explanar training aid, take a swing with it and chances are it will feel very odd in the follow thru as to how far left you have to swing to stay on plane. And here's the key thing...the 'swing left' is really a POST IMPACT FEELING & MOVE.

Here's a Manzella video showing what 'swinging left' looks like.

I think that's where most people get confused with 'swinging left', it's a POST impact move. Lag Erickson (www.advanced refers to it as 'releasing left' which I think is a better description.

Also, note that in Trackman, when they measure 'horizontal swing plane', that is measuring where the clubhead's direction POST impact. In other words, it's measuring if the golfer moved the clubhead to the left, right or square to the target POST impact.

Now, there is no definitive right or wrong when it comes to how a golfer releases a clubhead, but it certainly has a major effect on impact. But I will get to that in a bit.

Of course, with this information the question some of you are probably asking is:

'WHY do we care about 'swinging left' or measuring the horizontal swing plane or 'staying on plane post impact' when the ball has already been struck?'

The reason being is that the CORRELATION between the horizontal swing (the direction of the club post impact) is direct with the club path PRE impact and INTO impact.

Note: There are some other factors that determine the club path pre-impact and into impact, but I will get those in a bit.

In other words, if that clubhead is going out to the right POST impact, then it will certainly be going out to the right just before impact. If you swing the clubhead to the left the *proper* amount POST impact, you can create a square path right before impact. And of course, if you go too far left post impact, then you will create a clubhead that will be going left PRE impact.

In Trackman terms this is called 'Club Path' or sometimes called 'True Path' or 'Dynamic Path.'

So in the terms of Trackman it would look like this:

Horizontal Swing Plane = Direction of the clubhead post impact.

Club Path = Direction of the clubhead just into impact.

Here's another thing. Club Path (clubhead direction into impact) is what matters when it comes to the ball flight. But we can improve our Club Path or get it where we want by controlling our horizontal swing plane.

THIS is what Manzella is talking about. He wants you to 'swing left' POST impact a proper amount in order to create a Club Path of 0* coming INTO impact.

SliceFixer wants you to have the hands moving 'low and left' in order to create a proper amount of horizontal swing plane so you can create a 0* club path coming INTO impact (SliceFixer isn't that scientific, but that's basically what he's doing...which is good).

Lag Erickson is doing the same.

But like I've said, it's *how* they get their students to do is a whole different story.

So, what is the difference between that ugly, dreaded over the top move and properly 'swinging left.'

On Trackman you would see a HSP (horizontal swing plane) going so far left that the Club path coming INTO the ball would be going dead left as well when the dreaded over the top move is made. Conversely, with properly swinging left, you would see something like a -3* HSP (swinging clubhead 3* LEFT POST impact), but a club path of around 0* (square club path INTO impact).

I believe what seperates the dreaded over the top golfers and the properly swinging left is usually the pivot. The dreaded OTT golfers throw their arms and hands at the ball with little or no pivot and that causes them to get that club going too far left. Proper 'swing left' golfers start pivoting early on in the downswing and use their hands properly and don't get too 'armsy' in their swing.


IF you are trying to hit it dead straight and at the target, you need to have clubhead going in a proper direction POST impact in order get a 0* clubpath going INTO impact.

But how much and what direction the clubhead moves POST impact in order to 'zero out' the path INTO impact is dependent upon:

1. Attack Angle
2. Vertical Swing Plane

Attack Angle is measured from the FACE ON view. This is the angle that the clubhead goes to the ball, be it downward or upward. On Trackman, the number will likely range from anywhere to -6 (downward) to +5 (upward). Very few golfers hit upward and those who do, almost exclusively do it with the driver. You *can* hit up with irons, but you will not be compressing the ball properly.

The PGA Tour Averages for attack angle are as follows:

Driver = -1*
3-iron = -3*
7-iron = -4*
PW = -5*

The steeper downward the attack angle, the more the golfer will have to 'swing left' in order to 'stay on plane post impact' and create a 0* club path INTO impact.

The shallower the plane, or with an upward hit, the golfer needs to swing more to the RIGHT post impact to 'stay on plane post impact' and create a 0* club path into impact.

Why do you swing more left on a steeper attack angle and more right on a shallower attack angle? Because the 'low point' is being moved around.

If you have a shallower attack angle the low point moves further BACK in your stance. That also changes your plane. A good way to see how that is would be to get on one of those swing plane training aids. Now, move our body a bit up further to the left and swing the club on the plane. You will see that in order to 'stay on plane POST impact' you don't need to swing as far left as you used to.

THE GENERAL RULE OF THUMB is that *if* you want a path INTO impact of 0* with an IRON, the HSP has to be about 1/2 of the Attack Angle.

So, if you hit an 8-iron with a -5* attack angle. The GENERAL rule of thumb is that you'll need to have a HSP of about -2.5* in order to create a club path of 0*.

With a DRIVER, the GENERAL rule of thumb is that the HSP needs to about *match* the Attack angle. So if you have a -1* attack angle with the driver, then in order to 'stay on plane post impact' and 'zero out your club path", you will also need an HSP of -1*.


VSP (Vertical Swing Plane) is measured from the DTL view. This is pretty much what the golfer swinging down on the 'elbow plane' or the 'turned shoulder plane' is being measured. A golfer swing on the elbow plane on the downswing will have a flatter VSP angle than a golfer swinging down on the turned shoulder plane.

The flatter the VSP, the more to the left the golfer will need to swing post impact.

The more upright the VSP, the more right the golfer will need to swing post impact.

Since you cannot usually move those swing plane aids, just imagine if you flattened out the angle of the swing plane aid. That would mean you would need to swing the club left (to swing it flatter) to stay on plane post impact. Conversely, if you made the swing plane aid more upright, you would need to swing more right (to swing more upright) to stay on plane post impact.

While the 'general rule of thumb' is that you need to have an HSP that is 1/2 of the Attack Angle in order to 'zero out' the club path, that is based on a VSP of 60*. Most VSP's are in the range of 55-65*.

So, if you have an attack angle of -5* with a 6-iron and you have a VSP of 60*, in order to create a Club Path of 0*, then your HSP must be -2.5*.

However, if your attack angle is -5* with a 6-iron and you have a VSP of 55* (flatter than 60*), you need to have an HSP of something less than -2.5* (more left of 2.5* left) in order to create a club path of 0*.

Let's say the same thing, except the VSP is 65*. Then you need to create an HSP of -2.5 (more right of 2.5* left) in order to create a 0* club path.

Here's a couple of sample Trackman numbers, both with 6-irons:

Attack angle = -0.8
Vert swing plane = 62.7

So the VSP is a little more upright of 60* and the Attack Angle is -0.8*. That means the golfer needs to release th club POST impact about -0.4 or more toward 0.0* in order to create a club path of 0*

Horiz swing plane = 2.9

This golfer actually released the clubhead 2.9* to the right of the target.

Club Path = 3.3

This created a clubhead that was going out to the right 3.3* as it came INTO the ball.

Face angle = 2.0

Face angle is 2.0* to the right of the target (Open Face) but the clubpath is more inside-to-out of the face angle, so a slight push draw.

Spin axis = -3.4

Negative Spin Axis means ball's spin axis is to the left or a
draw/hook spin. Which is what we expected.

Side yards = 0.1 R

Ball wound up 0.1 yards to the right of the target. Just like expected...slight push draw that goes back to the targe

Attack angle = -4.7
Vert swing plane = 54.2

The VSP is flatter than 60* and the Attack Angle is -4.7*. So in order to 'zero out the path', the golfer needs to swing somewhat more left than -2.35* POST impact.

Horiz swing plane = 2.0

This golfer actually swung the clubhead 2* POST impact. This will move the Club Path out to the right.

Club Path = 5.4

Like we expected. Coming INTO the ball, the clubhead was going in a direction of 5.4* to the right.

Face angle = 2.4

Face angle is open by 2.4* and Club path is more out to the right (5.4*) than the face angle. Should be another push draw, but probably with more draw spin.

Spin axis = -2.0

Draw spin of 2*, but not as much as suspected. May have caught the ball slightly off the heel, reducing the draw spin a tad.

Side yards = 2.5 R

Ball wound up 2.5 yards right of the target. It started out slightly more out to the right and drew back slightly, which was more or less expected.


You don't HAVE TO zero out the path. If you can hit the ball consistently with a draw (or a fade), go for it. The problem I think teachers like Manzella and Rob Noel are seeing is that golfers are swinging very far out to the right. Like a golfer may have -4* attack angle and a VSP of 60*, but then wind up having a HSP of +5* (5* out to the right) or a plethora of other numbers that are hardly optimal.

Plus, as I've's much easier to retain a FLW at impact when you start to learn how to properly 'swing left' and my cranium does not move so much back and away from the target on the downswing.

I hope that clears up some confusion.



Zen Chili said...

Excellent and in depth explanation of swinging left. I have a new article on my website about pulling with the left side, check it out, I think it complements what you wrote here.

Ralph Perez said...

Nice write up and thanks for the kind words.
Keep up the good work.


Kenny G said...

Another awesome post--thanks, 3Jack!

Anonymous said...

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gmatt said...

Man you're blog is just amazing!
can't stop reading all the good stuff in there.
Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing.

Hot Chilli said...

Greet job!
Even better than Manzella explanation, but sheshhh don't tell him that...