Swing tempo is arguably the most important aspect in golf that is oftentimes overlooked. Despite the game spanning decades, there's still no definitively right way to swing a golf club. Even the best golfers in the world each have their own unique hand positions, swing planes and several other technical sticking points.
There's evidently more than one way to get it done. Think of Freddy Couples, renowned for the perfectly smooth rhythm to his swing. On the other hand, you have the likes of Rory and Tiger, who equally have remarkable tempos, albeit theirs seem more aggressive than Freddy's. If you're looking to emulate any of these top-level players, learning the proper basics of golf swing tempo is certainly the best place to start.
What is Swing Tempo?
In the golfing world, swing tempo is defined as the time it takes for a swing to move through a backswing all the way to the follow-through. Basically, it's how long it takes for your swing to get to the top and come back down. This is one of the finer elements of a golf swing that separates pros from amateurs; every golfer wants a great swing tempo, but only a few have it. In fact, it could be the one thing that stands out as common among accomplished players.
Most beginners struggle to find the proper tempo for several reasons. For starters, amateurs are usually under the impression they need to swing faster and harder for significant power, speed and distance. This is normally a result of watching too much golf, which can actually make you a bad golfer. But there's an underlying reason as to why the golf swing tempo appears as it does on TV.
John Novosel and Tour Tempo
In 2000, John Novosel was editing a professional golfer's swing for an infomercial. At one point, he decided to do a small test to measure the number of frames it took for the golfer to get to the top of the swing and back to the bottom. The results arrived at a precise ratio of 3:1.
Back then, it was believed that each golfer had a unique rhythm to their swing tempo, with very little correlation from player to player. As such, the finding did not particularly move him initially. However, when he set out to analyze the swings of all the best players in the game's history, he discovered they all swung at the 3:1 ratio; Tiger Woods, Bryon Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, etcetera.
John Novosel went on to publish his findings in the 2004 best-seller, Tour Tempo, and a second installment, Tour Tempo 2, which included a short game guide in 2012. He also came up with various training aids, including the popular tone series. It comes as no surprise that his discoveries turned the sport on its head.
What is the Right Technique?
The right tempo is all about getting the 3:1 ratio precisely and consistently. This means if your backswing takes 3 seconds, then your downswing should take a second; a 6-second backswing should be followed by a 2-second downswing. This pin-point timing creates the perfect rhythm, such that you'll always be accelerating at impact while also compressing the ball with power.
This is mainly why timing is quite a struggle for beginners. They retract the golf club too quickly in an attempt to generate more power rapidly. This often leads to decelerating at impact. On the contrary, the goal is to build up enough power on the way back to unleash it maximally on the way down.
It's almost impossible to acquire this technique without solid fundamentals. Here's how you work on finding a consistent tempo for lasting results.
How to Improve Your Swing Tempo
Great golf is all about repetition. At the heart of repetition is your swing tempo. The following golf tips and drills are meant to help you nail the 3:1 ratio and do it consistently, no less.
1. Relax at Address
First and foremost, it's key that you relax at the address position. The trick is to take a deep breath and then proceed to undo the death grip, including the tension that comes with it.
If you've been around the block enough, you probably know by now that tension is a huge contributor to a hurried swing tempo. It becomes all the more important to be intentional with all the actions that come before taking your stance and setting the club behind the ball. Just as crucial, you need to stay relaxed and loose throughout the round, especially in a competition or when you're playing well.
2. Find the Right Grip Pressure
Grip pressure is equally key when it comes to a proper swing. As Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have both expounded in their respective golf instruction books, you need to hold the club lightly at the address, only firming the grip slightly right before you start the backswing. The aim is to find the exact amount of grip pressure you require to maintain control of the club without exerting tension on your hands and forearms.
Typically, grip pressure varies for each club and type of shot. For instance, you'd go for a lighter grip in the bunkers and a firmer one if you're hitting a cumbersome lie in the rough. Keep in mind that too much grip pressure leads you to jerk the club back instead of starting smoothly.
3. Go Smooth on the Way Back
Ideally, a slow, smooth takeaway is what sets you up for the right tempo during the entire swing. Achieving the 3:1 ratio is a game of timing that only comes with practice. When you're practicing, make a point of starting your swing fairly slower than you usually do. This means you also have to contend with long sessions at the range, but you'll certainly see your overall tempo improve with time.
It's also worth noting that a very slow backswing is not ideal either. It makes it easy to hurry your downswing and come over the top, which often leads to the dreadful pull cut.
Swing Tempo Drills
There is no magic fix. Not even the latest, high-end, high-spec driver- despite what the commercials are telling you. You have to practice consistently. Fortunately, there are several drills that can help you to develop the right swing tempo.
a). 1-2-3-1 Tempo Drill
This is one of the easiest tempo drills out there. It only involves counting 1-2-3 out loud on the way back, then count 1 as precisely as possible on the way down. If you're just beginning, you can start with practice swings to its feel before moving on to hitting shots. As you get the hang of it over time, you can start to count more quietly.
This also comes in handy in pressure situations. In such circumstances, mechanics should be the last thing on your mind. A simple 1-2-3-1 drill can help you to focus on nailing a smooth golf swing tempo. More, you can also do it at home, by extending your arms and putting your hands together, best in front of a mirror.
b). Me and My Golf Tempo Drill
Me and My Golf, a popular YouTube golf channel, have a simple drill that helps keep your body and arms connected. Even better, you don't have to be on the range to work on it.
- Flex your knees and assume the usual address position.
- Cross your arms such that your left arm draws over your right oblique, then your right arm over your left oblique.
- Ensure you feel as if you're tightening your core, which in turn should maintain your body and arms connected.
- Work on rotating your body back while still holding your obliques. This helps you to minimize activity with your arms while also making it easier not to overswing.
In addition to golf swing exercises, several training aids out there can help you perfect the 3:1 tempo ratio:
a). Orange Whip
The Whip is undoubtedly the most popular golf gadget on the market, frequently voted as the best teaching and training aid on PGA and LPGA tours. In fact, several golfers have vouched for how well it works for training your tempo, among other drills.
The shaft gradually harmonizes the rhythm between your arms, upper and lower body. This means that you need to use the Orange Whip regularly to build the perfect tempo and balanced swing for consistent shots. As we mentioned earlier, repetition is key, and this gadget makes it a breeze. Furthermore, it provides instant feedback, meaning you can address any wobble in your golf swing immediately.
The Whip is designed to train your strength and/or flexibility, which are necessary to speed up your swings. Essentially, it's meant to smooth out your swing tempo. You can start with around 5 minutes every day to help train your body to get used to the right tempo and strengthen the necessary golfing muscles.
b). Tour Tempo Timer App
You can also consider using the Tour Tempo Timer app. This popular platform can help you to work on various aspects of your game. After all, it's based on the best-selling golf book.
The app provides a matching tone to the 3:1 ratio for your long swing, including others for your short game. More so, it even includes focus songs to get you into a rhythm. As much as it has a one-time $25 download fee, this is a fantastic option to develop your golf swing tempo effortlessly.
c). Tour Tempo Book
If you would still want to learn more about what goes into the perfect swing tempo, you can go ahead and buy a copy of the book. It goes deeper into all the ŗelevant aspects of a neat tempo, based on studies done to find the perfect 3:1 ratio.
This might almost sound like a broken record by now, but we really can't emphasize the importance of deliberate practice enough. There's no other way to become an accomplished golfer other than getting on the practice range and putting in diligent shifts. If you only show up on the golf course and hit balls, you'll sadly never get any better.
There's also a common problem among amateur golfers known as "paralysis by analysis." They'll find themselves worrying about several different (technical) checkpoints as they're swinging. Keep your practice extremely simple and specific. This means having small tangible objectives that cumulatively improve different areas of your gameplay.
Using a combination of Tour Tempo tones and a swing analyzer is arguably the magic potion. It follows that you can get instant feedback after every golf swing, allowing you to see whether you're in sync with the tones. Once you have nailed this part, you can take the training wheels off since you'll have cemented the feel of it.
This should amp up to hitting golf swings without the tones while still recording your progress. Soon enough, you should be able to do it without any training aid. Nevertheless, it would be best to mix things up from time to time. Try it with both tools, without them or separately. Remember that you don't have to hit an exact 3:1. Work on finding a ratio that works for you, the one that gives you the most confidence on the golf course.
It's rather evident there are no shortcuts to becoming a great golfer. Working hard -and smart, while at it- is key. Hopefully, this guide gives you a more in-depth understanding of what goes into a perfect golf swing tempo. It's all about working on the 3:1 ratio, more specifically adapting it to your swing. You certainly don't have to try to swing like the pros you see on TV.
We would highly recommend that you give these drills and training aids a shot. They're meant to help you develop a solid repeatable swing tempo. Even if they don't improve any other aspects of your overall game, these golf tips will definitely help you hit more consistently and shoot lower scores.
Just as important, be patient with the process. It takes time.