If I had a dollar for every time I heard a golfer say “I’m too steep” on my lesson tee…
But are you? Are you really?
Read on to find out.
What Is Steep?
When we talk about being steep, people are often referring to the shaft pitch in the downswing.
Let’s explore this.
For years, there has been a crazy obsession over swing plane.
I remember when I first started teaching, instructors were drawing lines on swing videos and analyzing the club’s position relative to it with an obsessive nature – as if it held some kind of magic.
Ah, the good old days of video analysis
Now, I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater – analyzing the club’s motion in 2D can still hold value for the trained eye.
You are not going to see this guy on tour anytime soon with that club movement
But the obsessing over minutiae, and the idea that “all you have to do is get the club on plane and the rest will sort itself out” is just bunk.
Pitch A Myth
One myth in particular is quite prevalent. It’s the idea that if you have a steep shaft as you start the downswing, you will have a steep impact and/or a left swing path.
Both are not only untrue, but can (and often are) the complete reverse.
Take, for example, this video
We can see that, in the start of the downswing, the club is incredibly steep. Yet,
- The swing path was 8 degrees to the right
- The angle of attack was 0 degrees down (level)
In other words, even though the club was steep starting the downswing, by the time it reached impact it was coming from the inside (a hookers pattern), and moving very level through impact – overly shallow (about 4-6 degrees down is a normal 7 iron shot).
This pattern is actually very common – players are steep at the start of the downswing and then the club drops “under” at the last minute. It’s not a very repeatable pattern either, although some greats have managed to have good careers doing it (Nicklaus/Mickelson).
The opposite can be true too.
Take a look at the below video
While the club is much shallower at the start of the downswing, during impact the club was actually moving
- 8 degrees from out to in (slicers pattern)
- 8 degrees down on the ball
So, a shallower shaft actually produced a steeper angle of attack and a left swing path.
This is not to say a steep shaft at the start of the swing automatically produces this impact (or vice versa), but it is just to say we should be careful when assuming that a steep shaft is producing a steep impact, or vice versa.
It can very often be the reverse.
I suppose it is more modern to talk about steep or shallow in terms of angle of attack – as this is all the ball knows really.
It’s not that shaft pitch is irrelevant, just that it doesn’t define how steep the club attacks the ball.
Again, angle of attack refers to whether the club is approaching the ball on a very downward angle (steep, or negative), level (shallow) or upward (positive) trajectory.
Having an angle of attack that is too steep or shallow can create issues such as
- an inability to strike irons/hybrids consistently
- lack of distance with the driver
- directional issues
The biggest influences on angle of attack are the low point position and clubhead arc-width.
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