Is your golf swing steep or shallow? What golfers need to know

justin thomas and jon rahm swing

You might hear the terms "shallow" and "steep" to refer to a golf swing, but what do they actually mean?

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Golf terminology can get confusing. Even for those of us who live and breathe the game, the bevy of terminology that is used can get complex, so if you find yourself lost on a topic, worry not — you’re not alone.

A couple of terms you’ve likely heard from swing coaches or broadcasters (or your buddy who gives unsolicited swing advice on the range) are steep and shallow. These words are thrown around all the time when describing swings, but what the heck do they actually mean? Watch the video from GOLF Top 100 Teacher John Dunigan embedded below, or read on for a breakdown.

What are steep and shallow describing?

The terms steep and shallow describe your swing plane i.e. the angle of the shaft during the swing. A steep swing has a shaft that is more vertical in relation to the ground, while a shallow swing is more horizontal.

“It’s standing up, or it’s laying down flatter,” Dunigan says. “Doesn’t that make more sense?”

Steep Golf Swings

branden grace swings
Steep swings work more up and down. DP World Tour YouTube

A steep swing is, in the simplest terms, one that moves more up and down. Instead of the club working around your body, it works up to the sky and back down the the ground. The club gets more vertical in the downswing and creates a negative angle of attack, resulting in hitting down on the ball severely and taking bigger divots.

Examples: Hale Irwin, Justin Thomas, Branden Grace

Shallow Golf Swings

matt kuchar swings
Golfswing HD YouTube

A shallow swing, on the other hand, works around your body more. The clubhead does not point to the sky as much on the downswing, and the shafts stays relatively flat in relation to the ground. Shallow swings often times produce less deep divots and approach the ball with a positive angle of attack, causing less backspin.

Examples: Jon Rahm, Lee Trevino, Matt Kuchar

Which one is “correct?”

Ideally, you want a swing that is neither steep or shallow. However as we know, a perfect swing is not attainable. Having a swing that is too steep or too shallow will present problems, but being a little bit on one side or the other isn’t the end of the world. Lots of highly successful players have played with swings that can characterized as steep or shallow. You just have to make sure you aren’t too far on either end of the spectrum.


Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at