In this work, we demonstrate that plasmonic nanostructures can be employed as nanoscale transducers to monitor the growth and phase transitions in ultrathin polymer films. In particular, gold nanorods with high refractive index sensitivity (150nm/refractive index unit (RIU)) were employed to probe the growth and swelling of polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEM). By comparing the wavelength shift and extinction intensity increase of the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of the gold nanorods coated with PEM in air and water, the swelling of PEM was estimated to be 26%±6%. The swelling was quantitatively confirmed with independent thickness measurement of PEM in dry and swollen states using AFM. The deployment of shape-controlled metal nanostructures with high refractive index sensitivity represents a novel and facile approach for monitoring the phase transition in polymers with nanoscale resolution.