In winning three major championships and 50 professional events around the globe, climbing to the No. 1 spot in the world rankings, and earning World Golf Hall of Fame membership, Nick Price made his native country of Zimbabwe awfully proud.
You don't rack up that kind of record on the strength of a friendly persona, which Price certainly has. No, it takes exceptional ballstriking to win a pair of PGA Championship and a British Open, not to mention all those other titles.
Price never had the flowing, syrupy swing of an Ernie Els or Fred Couples. Of course, he did just fine with his own unique action.
Unconventional move: Extremely
quick tempo on the backswing and through the ball.
Price's swing is a blur. He takes the club back very abruptly and quickly transitions to the downswing. Viewed in real time, you might get the mistaken impression that Price's swing is controlled by his hands, which appear to outrace his body to the ball.
Why it's a problem for amateurs: In itself, a quick tempo isn't a bad thing. Where amateurs get into trouble is when their upper and lower bodies become out of synch. Many golfers “cast” the club from the top of the backswing, meaning the first move downward is with the hands and arms, rather than the feet and hips.
An off-rhythm tempo is often accompanied by poor balance and improper weight transfer. Mishits in all directions occur, but quick swingers tend to fight hooks more than anything.
How Price gets away with it: At Price's tempo, swinging in control while using the body's big muscles requires a great deal of athleticism. Watch him in slow motion and you'll see that he makes a full turn with his hips and shoulders going back. In other words, everything is moving – not his arms alone – it's just moving more rapidly than the typical pro. Price doesn't cast the club from the top, either, with his left hip initiating the downswing. His lower body and head position are stable throughout.
One final note: Price's backswing and downswing happen at the same pace, which is key no matter what speed your tempo takes.
The cure: Golfers with quick-tempo troubles have two choices: Slow down their swing, or get their moving parts working together.
Here's an incredibly easy, at-home drill that will smooth out your tempo and improve your balance:
- Select any club in your back and turn it upside down.
- Take your grip at the bottom of the shaft, just above the clubhead.
- Assume your normal stance and swing smoothly, holding your finish for three seconds.
- Repeat multiple times, making sure to keep your balance at the finish.
This drill is a little tougher, but will teach you to stop casting the club:
- Using any club, take your normal stance and begin with a slow backswing.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds at the top of the backswing.
- Hit the ball and complete the swing.
You may suffer some major mishits at first, but keep trying. This drill gets your lower body engaged to start the downswing, the key to curing your cast.
Nick Price Ultra Quick Tempo
If you know anything about the golf swing, you already know that tempo is critically important. The best ball strikers all have a beautiful tempo in their swings, with a very even cadence from start to finish. There doesn't appear to be anything rushed or uneven about the swing with these kinds of players – they accelerate the club nicely through the swing, and the end result is a powerful shot that flies directly toward the target time after time. To be sure, the average amateur golfer would love to be able to imitate the tempo used by some of the best players in the world.
When you think about great tempo on the professional golf tours, you probably think about players with slow, smooth swings such as Fred Couples or Ernie Els. Those are certainly a couple of great examples, but a swing doesn't actually have to be slow in order to have good tempo. For a perfect demonstration of that concept, look no further than Nick Price. A three-time major champion, Price is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame – meaning his place in the history of the game is secure. However, when you watch Price swing, you won't see what you might expect from a top golfer on the world scene. Instead of a slow and steady tempo, Price swings the club incredibly quickly from start to finish. His tempo might be the quickest in the entire world of professional golf, yet it has obviously been highly successful.
So, how has Price managed to play such great golf with a fast tempo when most of his contemporaries use a slower approach? It comes down to the consistency of the tempo in his swing. Sure, he is moving faster than most, but there is a great consistency from swing to swing that allows him to deliver the club to the ball in the same manner time after time. In fact, Price not only was able to play on the PGA Tour with this fast tempo, but he was even considered one of the very best ball strikers in the world during his prime.
There are plenty of lessons that can be learned from watching Price's swing, and we are going to get into a few of those lessons below. It is always a good idea to learn from the top players in the world, even if you aren't going to copy their swing technique frame-by-frame. It is never a good idea to attempt to swing exactly in the same manner as another player, simply because of the differences in each individual's body, coordination, personality, and more. You always want to be true to yourself when creating your swing, but you can take bits and pieces that you like from other players in order to assemble a cohesive swing.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Set Up to Start
Before you can even get to the tempo portion of a golf swing, you first have to set up over the ball correctly. As you might suspect, this is something that Nick Price does beautifully. His body is in an excellent position at address, which makes it that much easier for him to execute his swing once the club goes in motion. If you aren't currently sure that you are in a good stance prior to starting up your swing, take some time to work on this point before going any farther.
Among the many positives that can be taken from Price's setup are the following points.
- Arms hanging comfortably. Many amateur golfers have trouble getting their bodies the right distance away from the ball when they take their stance. Often, amateur players will wind up either too close to the ball or too far away, making things more difficult than they need to be. Of course, that isn't a problem for Nick Price. He stands in a position that allows his arms to hang down freely from his shoulders, which is perfect. When the club returns to impact after the backswing and downswing are complete, he doesn't have to reach for the ball because his body is in just the right spot.
- Weight in the middle of his feet. This is another point that causes struggles among many amateur players. Instead of balancing their weight nicely in the middle of their feet – as Price is able to do – many golfers either lean out onto their toes or back onto their heels. Your weight is going to have to find its way back to the center of your feet one way or another if you are going to make a full, balanced turn, so setting up off balance is only going to cause trouble later on. Do your best to settle into a balanced stance at address without leaning in any direction and it will become easier to strike the ball consistently time after time.
- Head down, but not buried. It is true that you want to have your head down over the ball at address, but many amateurs take that point too far. You don't want to bury your head down into your chest – if you do, your chin will be in the way when you attempt to rotate your shoulders in the backswing. So, the ideal address position will include a nice balance between keeping your head down and keeping your chin out of the way. Price finds this position perfectly, so his stance is a good model to use if you need an example. His eyes are trained down on the ball as he prepares to swing, yet there is a clear path for his shoulders to take as they swing back and through.
- Slightly open lead foot. This is a point that does not necessarily have to be copied, but it is a great idea for most amateurs to at least experiment with this point. When standing over the ball, Price puts his left foot into a slightly open position. What does this do? Basically, it makes it easier to get into the downswing by encouraging the use of the lower body. From the top of the swing, you want your hips and the rest of your lower body to lead the way down – and that will happen more effectively if you have your lead foot slightly open to the line. Also, opening up this foot can make life a bit easier on your left knee, which is always a good thing. Many top players stand this way over the ball, and you would be wise to follow their lead.
If you aren't able to get your body in a good position prior to starting the swing, there really isn't much point in working on the rest of your technique. Even if you can manage to assemble a sound technical swing between address and impact, your efforts will be undone by your poor stance. Using a solid stance over the ball is one of the key fundamentals in the game of golf, and it should not be overlooked. Work hard to iron out any issues that you may have in this part of your game, and only move on to other areas when you are confident that your address position has been solved.
Quick but Connected
When you watch a video of Nick Price swinging the golf club, you will notice his quick tempo first and foremost. It is impossible to miss that tempo, even if you don't know much about the technical side of golf. In fact, the tempo that Price uses moves so fast that it is actually difficult to even see the rest of his technique. The swing goes by in a blur, and you really need a slow-motion replay in order to figure out exactly what has gone on. However, once you do slow the swing down to a speed that can be analyzed, you will quickly realize that behind that quick tempo is a rock-solid set of moves.
The first key to Nick Price's swing is the fact that he stays connected during the takeaway phase of the swing. This is a major difference between the quick swing that Price uses, and the quick swing that is featured by most amateur golfers. When Price starts quick, he does so the right way – by turning his shoulders to move the club away from the ball. The hands stay quiet early in the swing, as they should. Unfortunately, the average golfer who uses a quick swing doesn't manage to handle this portion of the action correctly. Instead, he or she will use the hands to start the club in motion, immediately hinging the wrists as soon as the club goes back. This is a major mistake, and it is one that is almost impossible to make up for later in the swing.
You want to make sure to keep the club in front of your chest throughout the early part of the swing to avoid 'getting stuck' later on. This is a common problem that can affect just about any golfer. If the club gets stuck behind you due to overactive hands early in the swing, you will likely wind up with a shot that is pushed out to the right of the target. Usually, players with quick takeaways are prone to this kind of mistake, but Price gets around the problem by keeping himself nicely connected early on. Thanks to solid fundamentals and a good shoulder turn, Price puts the club in a great position at the top without any risk of being stuck on the way down.
Again at the top of the swing, the connection that Price maintains is obvious even to the untrained eye. Everything from the top down is working nicely together, including the hands, arms, torso, and legs. Even though it is happening quickly, the swing is incredibly simple, and it is beautiful to watch. There are no wasted moving parts in the swing of Nick Price – everything that is in motion has a specific job to do. This swing is the picture of efficiency, and the results speak for themselves.
The takeaway from this section should be obvious – even though Nick Price has a quick swing, the fundamentals behind that swing are as solid as can be. While most people never get past talking about his quick tempo, you will find one of the best swings in the history of the game if you look just a bit deeper. Few players have ever hit the ball as consistently solid as Nick Price, and that consistency didn't happen by accident. Instead, it was a product of his hard work and his fundamentally sound, repeatable action.
Should You Swing Quickly?
So, seeing how successful Nick Price has been with his quick swing, you may be tempted to try this kind of tempo out for yourself. Is that a good idea? Maybe, maybe not. The key to finding the tempo that is going to work for you is to mostly ignore how others swing the club and instead look at yourself to decide what tempo is going to serve you best. The tempo you use needs to come naturally if it is going to be reliable out on the course, even under pressure. Trying to imitate someone else's tempo is a losing game, as you will never really own the swing you develop in that manner.
Instead of trying to copy Nick Price, or anyone else, you should instead be thinking about what kind of tempo is likely to serve you best. To start, think about your personality off of the golf course. What kind of person are you? Do you walk and talk quickly, or do you like to take your time going through life? Most golfers will be best served to have a swing tempo that closely matches up with their personality away from the course. A fast-talking person will typically fare better with a quick swing, while someone who moves slowly should consider taking the same approach with the golf club. Being true to yourself by matching up your swing with your natural personality is something that can have a surprisingly powerful effect.
Another thing to think about is the tempo that comes naturally to you when you first picked up the game. Before you even knew anything about how to swing the club, you had to have some form of tempo that naturally came to you and your swing. Even if you have improved dramatically on the fundamentals of your swing since that point, you should think about sticking with that innate tempo. Again, this is all about creating something that is going to be reliable and predictable over time. You don't want to attempt to manufacture a tempo that is never going to feel right within your game. Instead, use one that feels as though it was meant for you and you alone. You should own your tempo, not the other way around.
To work on dialing in the right tempo for your swing, one of the best things you can do is head to the range with a bucket full of golf balls and just a single club. You can use any club you wish, but usually a mid-iron like a seven or eight iron will work best for this drill. To get started, hit a full shot with the slowest tempo you can manage to produce (while still making a decent swing). How did that feel? Was it uncomfortable to swing so slowly? Next, hit a shot with an extremely quick tempo, something like what Nick Price uses in his game. Was that better than your slow swing, or worse?
From the extremes of swinging very fast and very slow, you should gradually work on coming back toward the middle. Keep hitting shots back and forth with a slow tempo and a fast one, but moderate each a little bit at a time so that they come together after a number of shots. Going through this drill will require you to hit shots using a wide range of tempos, meaning you will have a chance to 'stumble' on a tempo that works nicely for you and your swing. When you hit a shot that feels comfortable and natural, stay on that tempo for a few more shots to determine whether or not you have found the right speed for your game.
Tempo is not something you want to be changing from round to round, so it is important that you are able to settle on a tempo you can use consistently going forward. You will always have to perform maintenance on your swing technique in order to keep your game in good shape, but you don't want to be searching for a new tempo over and over again. Find a speed that makes you comfortable and produces good shots, and then stick with it for the long haul.
Tempo and the Short Game
You always need to be careful to remember your short game when working on anything related to your full swing. While there are inherent differences between the short game and the long game, they are also connected in many ways. Therefore, if you make changes to your full swing, those changes are likely to affect your short game in at least some way. That is especially true when it comes to tempo, which is a part of your game that carries throughout your bag. Adding or subtracting speed to your swing is almost certainly going to affect how you play your short shots, for better or worse.
Just as with the full swing, it is certainly possible to hit good shots with a slow or fast tempo in the short game. You need your tempo to be consistent from shot to shot in the short game, but it doesn't have to fall into any particular speed category – some players like to move their putter and wedges quickly, while others like to take their time. Going the slow route is probably more popular, but that doesn't mean you have to go that direction. Using a quick stroke and chipping action is just fine, as long as you are comfortable with it. In the end, the short game is all about the results you can see in front of you – if the ball is going in the hole, or at least coming close, you are on the right path.
The nice thing about working on your tempo in the short game is the simplicity of the swings you are making. Since you don't need to make a big, complex swing in order to hit a short game shot, you can clear your mind of technical thoughts while focusing in on the speed you are going to use back and through. In fact, you might even find it helpful to count your tempo out loud as you hit a few shots on or around the practice green. Counting out '1-2-3' while hitting your short game shots is a great way to even out your tempo – no matter what kind of tempo you are using. Most players don't think about tempo in the short game, but you can do yourself a great favor if you put in a bit of time working on this key element of your scoring.
Nick Price is one of the best golfers in the history of the game, and he reached that lofty position by using a quick tempo throughout his career. You don't necessarily need to copy the quick tempo that Price used in order to elevate your own game, but you can learn from the fact that he did things his own way and was able to achieve incredible success. Feel free to swing the club at any tempo that makes you comfortable, as long as that tempo is steady from shot to shot.