Consistent Golf 5: Tempo

Consistent Golf 5: Tempo

One of the keys to improving your consistency is finding the right tempo for your swing. Tempo is simply the rhythm of your swing – the cadence of your backswing and downswing. Maintaining a consistent tempo will improve your ball contact, your accuracy, and your distance control. It’s worth spending some time on the range experimenting with your tempo.

There is no one “right” tempo. In fact, as you experiment to find a tempo that will work for you, you’ll likely find that your best tempo will match your approach to the game and even your personality. An intense personality with an aggressive approach – guys like Nick Price and Ricky Fowler – will be more comfortable with an up-tempo swing. Laid-back personalities like Ernie Els and Reteif Goosen have a slower tempo. Both up-tempo and slow-tempo swings work equally well because they fit the player. Don’t be afraid to swing at a pace that matches your style.

The one aspect that up-tempo and slow-tempo swings have in common, though, is the relationship between backswing cadence and downswing cadence. A number of studies have been done comparing the length of time of the backswing to the length of time of the downswing. The relationship is consistently around three to one — that is, the backswing takes three beats compared to one beat for the downswing. It doesn’t matter if the whole swing is up-tempo or slow. The relationship stays the same.

You’ve probably heard golfers admonishing themselves to “slow down” (and probably even said it to yourself at times). I don’t think this is effective advice to give yourself. Here’s why.

The challenge with this advice is that it is usually addresses to the whole swing, including your downswing, and I don’t advise you to swing slowly on the downswing. Your subconscious probably agrees. In fact, if you slow your downswing you won’t hit the ball the distance you need and your subconscious will try to add a little extra at the last minute to make up for the slower swing speed. You should be swinging as fast as you can as long as you maintain your spine angle and balance and can deliver the club face square at impact.

Where many weekend warriors get into trouble is on the backswing. They get out of rhythm by rushing the club to the top of the backswing. Instead of three beats they get the club to the top in two beats or even one beat. The result is a timing mis-match. Typically the club and arms out-pace the body. Consequently there is too much tension in the swing and then the sequencing of the swing gets out of order, resulting in a mishit.

When a student’s swing feels rushed, I’ll have him or her do a drill we call “Rhythm Swinging.” Since the three-to-one backswing-to-downswing ratio is a perfect waltz beat, try humming or counting a waltz beat if your swing feels out of sync. Start your backswing on the “one” beat, get to the top of your swing on the “three” beat, and make contact on the next “one” downbeat. If you listen closely to the video you’ll hear a song I like to use from the Sound of Music called “These are a few of my favorite things.” Give it a try the next time you lose your tempo or feel as if you are rushing your swing. It’ll really help your tempo — and your consistency.