As humans, we are always searching for an easier, faster way to do something - hence the computer/robotics age we live in. The same goes for physical activities and if we can use less energy to accomplish a task with the more efficiency, that's a win. In golf it's no different. Why make the swing or our chances of a good hit any harder than it needs to be?
I am going to draw your attention to the downswing. A lot of problems with contact and ball flight happen when golfers swing too far from in-to-out (flat) or too far out-to- in (steep). The result with a square face is a large push, pull. If the golfer tries to compensate with a closed or open club face they get a huge hook or slice. Contact can also suffers - fat and thin shots all over the place when the swing path and plane get out of an acceptable range.
What is "acceptable" or "normal"? Starts with understanding lie angle (see the picture above or just compare clubs within your set at home). See the difference in how the shaft looks in relation to the ground? Shorter clubs= more vertical, longer clubs= flatter. This angle suggests what the swing plane should be to provide you "the path of least resistance" back to the ball . Any attempt to swing the club on an arc too far from this suggested angle will result in LOTS of compensations , added tension and manipulation to get the club back to a place where you even have a chance of hitting the ball. If you manage to hit the ball, good job, but good luck with consistency.
If I was kneeling on the ground and teed up a driver, I could hit the ball if I adjust my swing plane to match the new lie angle of the club. If I was standing and teed up a ball at chest height I could hit it if I adjusting the angle of my swing plane. If I had a kids club that was tiny, I could find a way to stand and make contact. The swing is just a circle that is tilted at an angle to the ball that is a set distance away from you. Very simple.
The swing plane as stated earlier varies from club to club. It also varies from person to person which is why you sometimes hear of custom clubs with adjusted lie angles to fit a certain build or swing. Don't get worried that you need to master 13 different swings- its the same swing on 13 sightly different angles. But its not that complicated. If you were playing baseball, you adjust to every pitch. In tennis or even ping pong we catch the ball on all different planes of motion. Golf is a sport like any other and its not played off a flat lie most of the time either- we must constantly adjust. We are not robots and the beauty of that is if we let our instincts take over and respond to the angles we are presented with - we can react with instinct. We are already the best computer ever made because of that!
Here are a few ways to feel or try to find a simple swing plane and avoid moving way outside normal parameters:
Take a heavy club like the Orange Whip Trainer, or Momentus and swing that back and forth a few times with rhythm and balance. Feel that it carves a single plane (more or less) around you.
Swing one handed and feel what plane your arm wants to swing on. If you manipulate it and push or pull the club really off plane you will feel it out of control or you will hit or miss the ground before or after the ball.
Practice some uneven lies on purpose and see if you can adjust on demand to find a swing plane that fits the hill based on new lie/shaft angles that you see!
Try standing slightly different distances or different postures from the ball with the same club until you feel you smooth out your swing plane. Sometimes an error in setup/posture can be a simple reason why you suffer from a certain swing fault.
Use a training station like an Explanar machine (we have one at Creighton) to feel and see what your neutral plane is.
So friends, make golf easier, swing on the "plane" or "path" of least resistance that your club or even the ground (hilly lie) is presenting. Get an image to give your brain and body some directions and then..... swing!