Flat Shoulder Plane

Maybe… After your last round you were a little frustrated and went trolling online to find out what having a flat shoulder plane means.

You could be looking at various videos and articles about shoulder tilt in the golf swing because one of your golfing buddies simply made a comment about your backswing being too flat or maybe they said that you were lifting the golf club in the backswing.

What Is A Flat Shoulder Plane

As all golfers are looking to create a simple golf backswing, many players worry a lot about how to rotate the shoulders in the golf swing, if they are under rotating shoulders or over rotating shoulders in their golf swing and or if their golf swing is too flat.

The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) quotes that 45.2% of players have a flat shoulder plane.

What is flat shoulder plane? It can also be referred to as flat turn or sometimes even a flat backswing.

A flat shoulder plane refers to the angle of the shoulders as the player turns to the top of their backswing.

Another way to explain it is that when the player is at the top of their backswing, their shoulders will be more parallel to the ground as opposed to having a line drawn through both of their shoulders that results in coming close to contacting the golf ball as it sits on the ground.

Flat Shoulder Plane

Flat Shoulder Plane

When you have a flat shoulder plane you will have very little or no golf shoulder tilt in your backswing meaning your shoulders will be more parallel to the ground than perpendicular to the ground.

You will hear some people refer to this as level shoulders in a golf swing.

Many instructors, including myself, will talk about taking your left shoulder down in the backswing.

Some students refer to it as the front shoulder dip in their golf swing. I really don’t care what we call it as long as you do it properly. haha

Proper Back Swing Shoulder Plane

What is a proper shoulder plane?

To perform a correct shoulder turn in a golf swing, you first need to employ the proper golf shoulder tilt at address.

This will change depending on the club you are attempting to swing. Take swinging a driver for example.

The shaft of your driver is much longer that your Pitching Wedge. Therefore, you posture or spine will be more upright than the shorter wedge that you will have to bend over more to reach.

To create the correct shoulder turn in the golf swing, you are trying to turn your shoulders around your spine that you set at address or another way to say it is to turn perpendicular to the tilt of the spine.

Many instructors, myself included, will talk about moving your lead shoulder (left shoulder for right handed golfers) down on the backswing.

Although this is correct, I am not sure it is descriptive enough for most golfers.

The best way to properly see and feel this to to take a club and place it across your shoulders.

Then… Take your address position.

As you turn into your backswing, allow the end of the club off of your lead shoulder to point somewhere around the ball on the ground.

Notice the pressure in your feet should be the most in the trail heel (right heel for right handed golfers).

In addition, your lead arm (left arm for right handers) should be farther behind you. This is how to get depth ine the backswing. See the picture for clarification…

Causes Of A Flat Back Swing Shoulder Plane

1. Player Has A Poor Concept Of How The Shoulders Are Supposed To Move On The Backswing

Many players that show up on my tee have not been presented with the proper concepts of how to make a correct shoulder turn in the golf swing.

Many have questions about their shoulders in the backswing and simply do not understand how the shoulders are supposed to move during the swing. 

In turn, my right handed students end up with a high left shoulder and a low right shoulder at the to pof their backswing. 

They simply need the proper backswing concepts explained to them.  


2. Limited separation between your upper body and lower body can force the player to stand up vs rotating their upper body.


I believe you can really see this in the pictures above.

With the flat shoulder plane, It looks like this player’s shoulders and hips have moved the same distance.

This will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for this player to generate optimal swing speed and club face control that he needs.

3. Poor Range Of Motion In The Shoulders And Lats.


Poor range of motion through various parts of the body can make the player lose their posture.

This can be determined by taking a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Movement Screen.  

4. Club Head Too Far Inside On The Backswing  


As we discuss this, we are referring to too much forearm rotation early in the backswing.

This gets the club head too far behind you when the club shaft is parallel to the ground on the backswing.  

All of the early forearm rotation on the backswing typically has the student not creating much body rotation at all or said in English, they do not have much body turn.

5. Lack Of Forward Tilt Of The Shoulders At Address

Many golfers that do not have enough forward tilt at address can also struggle with proper distance away from the golf ball, C- Posture or just an incorrect distribution of pressure in their feet.

When addressing a golf ball with a lack of forward tilt, the spine is already too upright leading the player to think that the shoulders should turn level.

In addition, for many years, instructors taught to turn in a barrel on the backswing, I am not saying that this is wrong.

What I am saying is the student needs to have a good understanding of what that exactly means.

6. The Players Golf Clubs Could Be Too Long Or Heavy For Them.

I see this most often with ladies or junior golfers. It makes some sense when you think about it. They are typically the players that end up with the “hand-me-down” golf clubs.

It is not a secret, golf can be expensive.   I know that some of my peers say that you need to be properly fit for your set… AND… I agree with that to a point.

If it is  brand new golfer, why should they invest a lot of money into something that they are not sure that they are even going to like?

Unfortunately, most times the “hand-me-down” golf clubs are way to long or way to heavy for the golfer that inherited them.

This makes the player compensate during setup or on their backswing. The compensations result in a flat shoulder plane when they get to the top of their golf swing.


Now that you know what a flat shoulder plane is as well as the multiple causes of a flat shoulder plane, you can decide what you need to do to make a better golf swing in order to create solid contact.

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