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As I got older, I've become less focused on how my swing looks holistic and more focused on what it looks like around impact – what Bobby Clampett & # 39; the moment of truth & # 39; called. In particular, I focused on the concept of face stability, that is, the ability to deliver the face with the intended alignment at impact. I've been blessed / cursed by the fact that I've always had elite clubhead speed. Even now, at the age of 40, I'm averaging around 117 mph with the driver. At that speed, however, even a slight clubhead alignment on impact can send my ball deep into the trees or even off the track. I firmly believe that learning to have more control over my club at the bottom of the swing is one of the keys for me to move from being a mediocre state amateur to participating in national events.
For the past nine months, I have made significant improvements to the stability of my face with the Tour Striker PlaneMate
. But like many other swing aids, I've found success using it in a slightly different way than its creators intended. Let me explain.
The primary target of the PlaneMate
The PlaneMate is marketed as a tool to help you make the club shallower during the downturn. Shallowing helps golfers keep their face stable through impact – to be honest I'm not sure how, but it seems to be a widely accepted principle among swing instructors.
Here's a video by Andrew Rice further explaining the concept:
Why I'm the Perfect Student
I've always been quite steep during the downswing, so the PlaneMate seemed very suitable for helping me improve the stability of my face. A former teammate of mine recommended it to me last summer. I've been on the fence for a few weeks because it's not cheap (it retails online for just under $ 200). But I was hooked after seeing a video last winter of Rory McIlroy practicing with it.
. @ McIlroyRory grinding with the plane buddy @davidwoodspga 🔥 pic.twitter.com/11uJl0GBDOekenen19459006]
– The McIlroy Legion (@RoryLegion_GC) October 7, 2019
My ultimate goal when I bought the device was to learn how to move to the right – the left-handed equivalent of leaving an impact with low hands turning right around my body. Traditional & # 39; throw & # 39; I put my clubs down the goal line, which leads to a very & # 39; flipping & # 39; release.
If any device ever helped a golfer feel shallow, it would be the PlaneMate. It consists of what is essentially a weightlifting belt with a rail glued to it. You attach your club to the rail with a stretchable cord (think of a resistance band or an elastic cord).
How does this thing actually work?
When you reach the top of the swing, the tension in the stretch cord pulls your hands down to a shallower position during the downswing. As you turn through a collision, the device encourages you to "exit left" (for right-handed users). If you throw your hands along the line, you will get tangled in the cord.
Here is Martin Chuck (the inventor) using the PlaneMate
When you take off the PlaneMate
your muscles retain the feeling of shallowness, allowing you (in theory) to continue the movement pattern without the device. The device comes with three different bungee cords: a short one for wedges, a longer one for mid irons and woods, and a & # 39; heavy-resistance & # 39; band made for ball-less home or gym training. The teaching professionals behind the PlaneMate provide a free, online 7-day protocol to familiarize new users with the device. The protocol requires the golfer to start with small chips and pitches and progress to full strokes over the course of a week.
Here's a demo of how the PlaneMate is used from its inventor, Martin Chuck:
Fair warning – you'll look like a tragic wave
The device is bulky and somewhat clunky. You'll look a bit like what the Australians would call a "wave tragic" when it says it (think Tin Cup in the scene after Costner developed the yips).
So if you are an image conscious golfer you may want to work on protocol at home with indoor golf balls so none of your friends can scoff at you on the range. I personally believe that golf is so hard that it should never be ashamed to experiment with new ways to get better!
My experience after the protocols
I literally followed protocol and continued to practice with the PlaneMate for many, many hours after I finished it. But in the end I found that I couldn't hold the "superficial" movement pattern.
As soon as I speed up my exercise program without the PlaneMate, I revert to a steeper decline. Perhaps superficiality is just too strange for someone who had been swimming differently for so long. I'm tall with short arms, so maybe my body just isn't biomechanically suited to a & # 39; shallow swing & # 39 ;.
Maybe I have physical limitations and inflexibility that prevent me from becoming superficial – for example, I have very limited internal shoulder rotation with my trail shoulder due to an old tennis injury. But whatever the reason, despite all the hours of drilling with the device, my downswing is no shallower than when I started. So, despite all the hours I have put into the PlaneMate, I have given up hope that it will help me learn superficially.
Wait, there is good news!
I still feel that the PlaneMate worked wonders for my game. The key has been the ingenious feature that allows you to get caught in the resistance cord if you get too weak with the release. I learned that hitting dozens of wedge and half shots with the PlaneMate without getting tangled significantly improved my control at and around impact.
To be sure, I'm not shallow and "leave the right" like a left-handed Ben Hogan. But my "flippy" release has been muted and softened, as I explain in the video below (sorry for the wind noise!). And that made a huge difference to the consistency of my ball hitting all the way through my bag.
Final Thoughts – Is the PlaneMate Worth It?
Since then, I've recommended the PlaneMate to three friends who also have steep downswings and flippy releases. All three have made a similar journey. After using the device for many hours, they still cannot be "shallow" if they have added speed to their swing. They are all quite steep during the downturn. Nevertheless, they feel that the device helped calm their overactive hands in a collision, giving them more control and making their "big miss" less disastrous.
So I wholeheartedly recommend the PlaneMate for golfers struggling with face stability at impact – especially golfers who get steep on downswing and throw the club over the line after impact.
Unfortunately, I don't think the PlaneMate
will suddenly make you look like Sergio Garcia during the downturn, nor Ben Hogan shortly after the collision (Hogan was the king of "left"). But it can help you. learn to move through the hitting zone a little more steadily and less smoothly, and the result should be an immediate improvement in your score.
About the author
Eben Harrell is an editor, writer and competitive amateur golfer who divides his time between Colorado and Scotland.