In this article, we take a look at two very different approaches to the golf swing plane, especially the backswing plane, as demonstrated by Matt Kuchar and Fred Couples.

Backswing Plane: Freddie vs. The Kuch

Matt Kuchar has one of the flattest swing planes on the PGA tour.  He wraps the club around his body on the backswing, comes at the ball from the inside, and tends to play a draw.  Freddie, on the other hand, has one of the most abrupt and upright takeaways on tour.  His backswing and swing plane is mostly “up”, not “around”, and he tends to play a fade.

To compare the two, we have video from the 2010 Masters, from the par three 16th hole (see the Master’s scoreboard in the background?).  Both are probably hitting about a seven iron. The pin is in the same place, since the video was shot on the same day.  They also are standing in almost identical parts of the tee box (but at different times of the day, note the shadows are a bit different).

The point is that these guys are attacking the exact same pin on the exact same day, and our vantage point is almost identical.  So it’s a very fair comparison.

Have a look, here is Matt:

And here is Freddie:

Backswing Planes are Different

Matt Kuchar has a low, shallow takeaway and a flat backswing plane.  Freddie Couples has a high, abrupt takeaway and an upright backswing plane.

Matt Kuchar has a low, shallow takeaway and a flat backswing plane.  Freddie Couples has a high, abrupt takeaway and an upright backswing plane.

To compare the two swings, run these videos until the shaft is parallel to the ground. Then have a look at the important angles relative to the target line.  This gives a good indication of their respective backswing planes.  I have put Fred and Matt side-by-side for easy comparison:

Several things stand out.

  • Matt is lined up at the target or slightly closed, Fred is lined up open to the target (alignment shown with the blue line).
  • Matt’s takeaway and backswing plane is low and flat.  Fred’s backswing plane is high and upright.  The shaft is highlighted in green.
  • Both Matt and Fred have the clubface (in yellow) slightly closed at this point in their swings.

Overall, you would have to agree that their swing planes look quite different at this point in their swings.

But-Downswing Planes are Similar

Now we fast forward to the downswing.  At the point where their clubs are once again approximately parallel to the ground, they look a lot more similar than different — see below:

matt kuchar fred couples golf swing plane downswing

Despite their very different takeaways, Matt and Fred have their clubs in similar positions as they attack the ball.

Despite their very different backswing planes, their clubs are now in very similar positions.  Matt is still a bit more inside than Fred because he is playing a draw.  Fred has cleared his hips a bit more than Matt because he is playing a fade.  But, overall, despite the differences in their swing planes, these guys look a whole lot more similar than different at this point!

What can the Occasional Golfer learn from this comparison?  Mostly, I think, that you don’t hit the ball on the backswing, so your positions and backswing plane are not nearly as important as many people would have you believe.  Backswing positions are important only to the extent that they enable you to have a powerful, correct, and reproducible downswing plane that allows you to release the club down the target line.

Finally, if you are more upright and outside the target line than Freddie or flatter and more inside the target line than Matt on the backswing, you are probably not in a very good position.  Check yourself out at the range by making a video on your smartphone.  Or find a ground floor window at your house and use it as a mirror to check your position.

Be More Like Kuchar

Most Occasional Golfers will do better with a Kuchar-like swing than Couples-esque swing.  Kuchar’s backswing plane and downswing plane are similar, often referred to as a one-plane swing.  Most high handicappers fight a slice, and Kuchar’s swing plane promotes a draw.  On most courses, most of the time, you are better off with a draw.  Indeed, the best way to not slice is to learn to hit a draw instead.

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