Shallow Golf Swing: The Key To Better Ball Striking?
Every golfer wants to hit the ball purely. There’s nothing quite like the sound – whether it’s a driver, a mid-iron, or a flushed wedge… It’s a wildly rewarding feeling.
But if you’ve been playing the game for any length of time, you know that magical feeling isn’t easy to achieve consistently. Finding the sweet spot on any golf club is a challenge, even for skilled amateurs who can regularly shoot in the 70s or break par.
So what’s the key to hitting the ball purely and making more consistent contact?
One of the most important moves is learning how to build a shallow golf swing. When you make a shallow move on your downswing, it’s so much easier to compress the ball and make better contact.
When you learn how to shallow your swing, you will have more distance, accuracy, and likely lower scores. The move is elusive to so many golfers but in this article, we’ll try to simplify the process so you can have a more consistent golf swing.
Shallow Golf Swing
Before getting into the details, you might have asked yourself, “What is a shallow golf swing?”
A golf swing is usually considered on plane, steep, or shallow.
A shallow swing is when you come from the inside on the downswing. The club is flatter and more laid off than a steep swing. A shallow swing tends to create more lag and ultimately, more power as you hit the ball then the turf (with irons).
One of the best examples of a well known player with a shallow swing is Sergio Garcia. He creates an incredible amount of lag and has been one of the most consistent ball strikers over the past 20 years.
The opposite of a shallow swing is a steep swing. In this case, a golfer takes the club at a more vertical angle toward the ball at impact. You might have heard the saying, “Chopping wood” on the golf course as it’s a similar, up and down motion.
A steep attack angle isn’t common for elite golfers and tends to happen more with amateurs and recreational players. When you have a steep attack angle, it leads to all types of issues including weight transfer problems and incorrect swing path.
If a golfer has a neutral swing, this would be on plane or slightly underneath to create a shallow swing. Now, let’s get into how each part of the swing dictates the plane and contact at impact.
Understanding Your Golf Swing Plane
Before diving into the details of what might be causing a steep swing, it’s important to first check your golf swing plane. The worst thing you can do is try out new drills or moves in your swing to fix an issue that you don’t have.
If your swing is too steep you likely have one or more of these issues:
- Pulled golf shots that are well to the left of your target (the divot never lies).
- Pop up shots with the driver. Arguably one of the most frustrating shots in the game and can leave a nasty skymark on your golf club.
- Weak cuts and weaker slices, especially with a driver. While this might come from more than just plane issues (like your grip), they usually come together.
Are you still not sure if you have a steep or shallow golf swing? Then record your golf swing in slow-motion on your phone and then evaluate a few key checkpoints.
- The takeaway (P2): This position is when the golf club is parallel with the ground. If you have a swing that is neutral and on plane, the clubhead should be just outside the shaft. If the clubhead is more inside and the butt-end of the club is pointing well right of your target, this inside takeaway is likely the cause of a steep swing.
- The downswing (P5): This position is when you’re on the downswing and the shaft can tell you a lot about the plane. Is your shaft above your bicep? Underneath it and more towards your forearm? Or right on it? If your shaft is more vertical and above your bicep, you likely have a steep swing and need to work on shallowing it out.
Part 1: Setup Position
If you want to create a more shallow swing, you first need to check a few things in your setup position. Go through these checkpoints to make sure you’re set up correctly at address.
- Head: It should be bent comfortably over the ball with your chin up to allow for a proper shoulder turn on the backswing.
- Posture: You should have your knees bent, in an athletic position and feel like you’re slightly squatting down.
- Arms: They should be pressed tightly against the side of the chest with the forearms pointing toward the sky. Additionally, they should be as close together as possible.
- Feet: Externally rotate your lead foot toward the target to clear your hips on the downswing. And your back foot should be perpendicular to the target line.
Once you’re set up correctly and follow these golf swing basics, let’s get into the backswing where most problems occur.
Part 2: The Backswing
Getting steep can happen from several moves in your backswing. Here are a few of the most common reasons why you don’t have a shallow golf swing.
If you have a steep downswing, it’s likely because of an issue with your backswing. The biggest cause of a steep downswing is taking the club too far inside on the way back. When this occurs, it’s almost impossible to not get steep on the downswing which leads to all kinds of issues.
Here’s what Tiger Woods said in his book, How I Play Golf, about letting the club stray inside on the backswing… “If the club moves too far to the inside midway through the backswing, the shaft aiming to the right of my target, I’m forced to make compensations (I call them makeup moves) to get the club back to the right track.”
One of the most common “makeup moves” after an inside takeaway is coming over the top on your downswing. Being over the top means steep, which leads to pulls, cuts, and sometimes banana slices that plague beginning golfers.
Instead, make sure the club is outside the shaft during the first part of your takeaway. This will help you feel like a loop in your swing where you take it outside, then drop it back inside on the downswing.
Also Read: How To Build an Inside Out Golf Swing
Excess Wrist Hinge
Here’s what Josh Zander, a top teacher in California according to Golf Digest said about the wrist’s impact on the swing plane. He said, “Avoid hinging your wrists too soon, which narrows and steepens the swing arc. You want more of a sweeping move off the ball and less of a lift.
At the top of the backswing, Zander says you should strive to get the clubhead as far away from your head as possible. The farther you can keep it out, the wider your arc, and the shallower—and more solid—your impact.”
The sooner you hinge your wrists on the backswing, the easier it is to get steep instead of shallow. Keep plenty of width in your swing so you have a wide arc at the top of your backswing.
Part 3: The Downswing
The downswing is known as the second part of the swing. Ben Hogan dedicated an entire chapter in his book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons to explain this concept.
As he elaborated, “On the downswing a golfer swings on a slightly different plane than on the backswing. The plane for the downswing is less steeply inclined and is oriented with the ball quite different from the backswing plane.”
The start of the downswing is with your hips, not your upper body. Your hips lead the way, then the shoulders, arms, and hands follow suit.
Ben Hogan later said, “When the golfer is on the correct downswing plane, he has hit from the inside out. When he hits from the inside out, he can get maximum strength into his swing and obtain maximum clubhead speed.”
Related: 5 Tips to Increase Swing Speed
Drills to Shallow Your Golf Swing
Now that you have a better understanding of how the swing should function, let’s talk about some drills. Because as I’m sure you know from experience, learning something conceptually is easier said than putting it to use in your own golf swing.
Here are several drills to help you feel the correct move in your swing so you can develop a more shallow swing.
Open Stance Drill
Using an open stance is a great way to learn how to shallow the golf club. Jim McLean is a big fan of this drill and one that I’ve used as well.
Here’s how to get started…
- On the driving range, grab a short iron and set up the golf ball like normal.
- Then, open your stance by dropping your left foot back without moving your right foot. Your shoulders should stay aligned toward your target, but your feet are well left of it.
- Then take some practice swings and see how it feels. You’ll likely feel it requires you to take the club more outside on the backswing which helps with a flatter downswing.
- After you’ve done 5-10 practice swings, start hitting golf balls and swing on your shoulder line (not your feet).
- If you’re still pulling the shot left, try to swing more right of the target so you have an inside-outside swing path.
Figure 8 Drill
According to top YouTube golf coach Clay Ballard of Top Speed Golf, the easiest way to get shallow is with the figure 8 drill.
This drill is great if you take the club too far inside on the backswing which leads to a steep downswing.
Here’s how to get started…
- Without hitting a ball try to take the club well to the outside in your takeaway. Try to think of yourself like Matt Wolfe with a very outside move on the backswing.
- This will force you to drop the club on the downswing and create the shallow move you’re looking for in your swing.
- On the downswing try to feel like you’re swinging right of the target (which is the opposite of a steep swing).
If you had a shot tracer on your swing path it should look like a figure eight. You can also hit golf balls like this at 50% to start to feel the new motion.
Test Out the Lag Shot
While drills are great, you might want a training aid to help you develop a shallow golf swing too. One of the most popular new golf tools is the Lag Shot which received the “Best Swing Trainer” award from Golf Digest in 2022.
The swing trainer guarantees to help you groove a more consistent swing in 10 swings a day (guaranteed). This training aid is a 7-iron in terms of length, loft, and lie and looks like a normal golf club. But the kicker is how they use the weight of the club to manipulate the swing path.
According to the company, “It practically forces you to “load the club” perfectly, generate tremendous lag automatically, and make confident swings with ideal tempo and rhythm.”
It will help you develop a one-piece takeaway and not suck the club too far inside. This alone should help your plane and it also helps with transition and a powerful downswing.
For a little over $100, this is a great tool that you can use at home or on the course to create more lag and shallow swing. It’s available for right-handed and left-handed golfers, juniors, and they have a driver model as well.
Developing a more shallow golf swing is how you can become a consistent ball striker and ultimately a better player. That doesn’t mean you need to have a ton of lag like Sergio Garcia to hit it well. In fact, coming into impact too shallow has plenty of issues too.
But in general, you want to have a more shallow than steep swing. This will help transfer your weight properly, make better contact, and hit it longer than ever. This is one of the few things elite players have in common.
Depending on your current swing, it might take a few weeks or months to create this power move in your swing. Or, it might take multiple months or years but trust me, it’s worth it.
Do you have problems shallowing the golf club? If so, what drill or training aid have you used to make a change?
Let us know in the comments below!