Swing Path vs Swing Direction – what’s the difference

Swing Path vs Swing Direction – what’s the difference

Did you know you can swing left and still hit a draw?

This article will explain exactly why that is the case, and give you a deeper understanding of the swing arc.


Swing Circle

I’ve said it before and I will say it again (as it is worth re-iterating).

As you swing a golf club around your body, if we were to trace the path the clubhead makes, it would be very circular (although not a perfect circle). See the brief video clip below.

Viewed from down-the line, this circle is tilted – some people would call this the swing plane – this swing plane changes subtly through different phases of the downswing.


Because of this tilt, if we were to view the bottom of the swing circle from our own eyes, it would look like this.


In the above picture, the black line represents the lowest point of that swing arc, which the club will track through impact. Anything before this (red) and the club will be traveling down (steeper angle of attack). Anything after the low-point and the club will be traveling up (positive angle of attack).


Swing Direction

“Swing-direction” is defined as

the direction the clubhead is moving at the lowest point of the swing.

In the below example, the bottom of the swing is moving towards the target – or a neutral swing direction.


In the below picture, we see examples of both a more rightward and more leftward swing direction.



Swing Path

Swing direction and swing path are different (although can be the same).

Swing path is defined as

The direction the clubhead is moving as it is in contact with the ball (at impact).

For example, in the below picture, we have a neutral swing direction. If the ball were struck at the lowest point of the swing, we could also say that the swing path is also neutral.


However, if the golf ball were struck on the part of the swing arc before low point, the club path is traveling more to the right – see below picture.


The reverse is true too. Any ball struck on the blue part of the arc (after low point) will have a club path which is traveling more left of the swing direction.


The Basic Rule

To summarize this rule,

  • If the ball is struck before low point, the club path is moving more down (steeper angle of attack) and more to the right through impact (all else equal).
  • If the ball is struck after the lowest point of the swing, the club path is moving more up (positive angle of attack) and more to the left through impact (all else equal).


Fixing Slices

For this reason, the route to fixing a slicer can be important.

A slicer of the ball will typically have a left (out to in) swing path.

Sure, swinging the club more to right field can change swing path, but it will also have an effect on low point position. Many slicers cannot change their swing direction because of this (as, when they do, they are greeted with fat and thin shots).

However, shifting the lowest point of the swing more forward might not only improve swing path (moving it more in-to-out), but can positively affect low point position, allowing the player to strike better iron shots.

We always have to make sure the clubface is in an appropriate direction at impact too. An in-to-out club path will not create a draw unless the clubface is closed to it (more left of it).


If the swing path is to the right, a player will need to present the clubface close to the black line if they want a functional draw (see above pic. These directional factors are described in detail in The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers.


Quality Strikes

As quality iron shots are always struck on the downward part of the swing arc (before low point), we can say that the swing path for a good player is always more to the right of their swing direction.


The low point for a well-struck shot with an iron will be in front of the golf ball.

This is how a good player can have a divot that looks left, yet the ball draws (suggesting that the swing path was to the right at impact).

One of the reasons I created The Strike Plan was to help players improve their quality of strike (with irons, driver, woods and hybrids).

Through improvements in low-point position, and understanding how swing direction relates, players have seen quick improvements in their strike quality, as well as lower scores.

If you want to find out more about The Strike Plan , click the image link below.

Strike plan enter

Also, CLICK HERE to check out the testimonials of players who have purchased the strike plan – see how they have benefitted.

Don’t forget to check out The Practice Manual (click the image below) if you want to learn more about improving your whole game.


the practice manual golf book


  • Rod Thompson

    Love the graphics what company did you use to get those, much better than other swing capture systems.

    • admin

      Hi Rod, I do all the graphics myself using a mac and programs such as final cut proX

  • Laura @GolferGurus

    We’ve been working on our 7 year old son’s swing path all summer. We have seen improvements when we stress path and direction are similar, but not the same. Thanks for your timely article-

    • admin

      Hi Laura – changing swing direction is often a better way for a player to ‘feel’ the path change. However, sometimes, a player’s swing direction is fine, and they just need a shift in low-point position to see a better path. I try to match the change with the desired strike I want to achieve with the player.

  • Karl

    makes my thinking that there is actually never a neutral swing direction, because the clubhead is always moving on an arc. And because ball and clubhead are moving a short time together, but never on the same path, there will be never a neutral force for the ballflight.

    And we think we could control this with a big stick at over 90mph – crazy 😉

    • admin

      This is true. There are, however, ways of flattening the arc and making it more of a straight line. You could also say that, in the time the face and ball are connected, there is an average swing path direction. You could also look at it as a single point in time (maximum compression of the ball).

      In any case, the ball flight tells us what we need more or less of in order to get the end result closer to our target.

  • Michael Tillcock

    Just came here from the Sweet Spot episode with Andrew Rice about what’s important in the golf swing. I’ve never really thought about swing direction before, and it’s definitely a good thing to have an awareness of. The graphics make it clear. What are key takeaways then – if I try to hit up on my driver I might want to favour a fade?
    Is this possibly why Mcilroy is a better driver than wedge player – because hitting up helps neutralize his swing direction that tends to make him block wedge shots?

    • admin

      Sure, hitting up on a driver might favor a fade. Or you may have to neutralize the path – for example Hogan used to aim his body right to account for the left path. Te opposite was true – opening the body and feet line for wedges.

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