We've all been told that we need to swing inside-out to avoid coming over the top (OTT or swinging outside-in). Few really great golfers swing outside-in, though there are examples of pro golfers who've used a slight OTT move to good effect, such as Sam Snead. Killing the OTT move--apart from the open club face--is one of the first steps a slicer (most amateur golfers) needs to take. But what about the arc on the other side of the ball? Does the club REALLY swing "out to right field"? Here's where you'll see the divergence between those who actively or passively square the club face.
When a player actively squares the club face, the arms cross over and cause the toe of the club to quickly over take the heel, irrespective of the body's turn. Often the club will chase down the line (or even out over the line) after impact for a time before coming back inside, and such an inside move isn't very pronounced. A good player on a good day can make this work. But even good players struggle with this move and often end up with duck hooks on days when the timing just isn't there. This is what happened to Ben Hogan early in his career.
When a player passively squares the club face by trying to keep it perpendicular to the swing arc all the way through, the arms don't cross over actively. Any movement of the wrists and forearms is entirely unconscious. As a natural consequence of body rotation serving as a primary squaring mechanism, the club head immediately tracks back to the inside, such that the swing shape is inside-outside-inside, following a natural, crescent-shaped arc that intersects the target line at after impact. Whereas an outside-in swing shape is steep, the inside-outside-inside swing arc is rounder, flatter, and more shallow. The small muscles of the arms are taken out of it and the golf swing is powered more by the lower body and larger muscles of the trunk. It's easier to maintain lag pressure and thus lag, as the club head never passes the hands until very late.
Swinging back to the inside early is the way that Ben Hogan played golf later in his career, and many would argue that there has never been a more consistent golfer once he made this change. Hogan adopted a fade ball flight that was consistent and reliable; he never had to worry anymore about his ball hooking directly off the course. Other great golfers, including Jack Nicklaus, played a fade as their go-to shot. Matt Kuchar swings this way and is one of the most consistent modern players. This method of swinging really lends itself well to a slight fade or straight ball flight, with minor adjustments (mostly ball position) needed to coax the draw. Tiger Woods is trying to develop a fade ball flight as his go-to shot; you'll often see him practicing for a shot by exaggerating coming back to the inside.
Swinging this way works best with the correct hip movements (clearing the hips and covering the ball), and a good swing thought is the good old belt buckle--keeping the butt end of the club pointing at it as you turn through.
Want to know if you're doing it? Film yourself swinging down the line. If your club approaches the ball from the inside and the hands and club disappear behind your body low and early after impact, you have an inside-outside-inside swing shape. Another characteristic of this swing shape is the maintenance of connection between the left and right upper arms against the chest throughout the swing--often called staying connected. All of these characteristics make for a more consistent golf swing because no emphasis is placed on the conscious control of the small muscles in the arms.
Of course, the shorter the club, the less pronounced this move is, because the swing plane is more vertical and thus the inside-out-inside move is not as obvious.
As I said earlier, our goal was to take the timing problem out of my swing, including my hands having to roll over at just the right instant to square the clubface. Now, once I shift to my left side to start the downswing, I can turn hard, and my body will bring the club around. That's because I've kept my left arm pinned against my chest. With this connection, turning my body squares the face without any hand action.
With the body leading like this, my arms track back to the inside quickly after impact. I used to have too much "chase" in my swing, with the clubhead swinging straight down the line or even out to the right. My new swing shape proves that my arms and body are working together, like concentric circles, with my arms moving in orbit around my body.
The club orbits the body at an angle called swing plane – like a circle or ellipse tilted on its side. That angle can range from 45-60 degrees depending on the club. What most golfers neglect is how the club must travel back inside after impact. Instead of allowing a natural release to the left, they force the hands and arms to release the club down the target line in an effort to hit the ball straight or add more speed. This leads to inconsistency. In fact, releasing the club down the target line moves the club off its natural plane. The result can produce tremendous hook spin or block pushes depending on the angle of the clubface.