While no two players have the exact same tempo, there is a spectrum of variation from slow (think Ernie Els, Fred Couples) to fast (Nick Price, Rickie Fowler).
In other words, there's no right or wrong tempo. Whats important is that your rhythm remains consistent with every club on all types of shots. An erratic tempo – slow one swing, quick the next – can lead to poor golf ball-striking.
Most teachers agree that its best to take things at a smooth, even pace, making sure that the back-swing is slow and the down-swing accelerates. An easy-paced tempo promotes good balance, helps keep the upper and lower bodies in sync, and prevents the hands and arms from becoming overactive.
There are a number of ways to smooth out your tempo. One is to focus on swinging at only 80-percent power for full shots. Another is to practice wedge shots with a three-quarters swing, then continue using that motion for longer clubs.
A good routine for tempo and balance is called the “golf swoosh drill. Simply take any club, turn it upside down and grip it just beneath the clubhead. Swing so it makes a “swoosh” sound on the downswing, then hold a balanced finish for three seconds.
Improve Your Golf Swing Tempo to Gain Power and Consistency
When was the last time you worked on the tempo of your golf swing? If you are like most players, the answer to that question might be never. tempo is one of the key elements to a consistent and powerful swing, yet most golfers ignore it completely during their practice sessions. When you allow yourself to get caught up in the technical aspects of the swing while on the driving range, it is easy to forget just how important a good tempo is to your success.
Believe it or not, good tempo in your golf swing can actually cover up for some other mechanical flaws. Even if your swing isn't technically perfect (and it probably isn't), you can still play great golf as long as you are using a nice tempo which repeats from shot to shot. If you get a chance to watch some professional golf on TV, notice how each player is able to repeat their tempo over and over again throughout the round. They all have different techniques that go into their swings, but good tempo is something that every one of the top players works on regularly.
The great thing about building a reliable tempo into your golf swing is that it can translate to every shot that you hit around the course – even the short ones. Good tempo can also help you overcome any nerves that might come up during a round. As long as you have your tempo to rely on, you should be able to put aside that nervous energy and still produce high-quality shots.
One of the challenges that you will face when working on your tempo is figuring out exactly what a good tempo looks like. Since there is no one right tempo that works for each golfer, you will have to go through a process of trial and error to find the right pace for your own swing. Once you find it, make sure you spend as much practice time as possible working on your tempo so that it becomes a natural part of your game.
Many golfers make the mistake of confusing a fast tempo with a fast swing speed, but those two things are rarely connected. Some of the most powerful players in the world use a slow tempo, and yet they are still able to create tremendous club head speed at the bottom of the swing. The only point during the swing when the club needs to be moving fast is at impact – the rest of the swing can build slowly up to that moment. The average amateur golfer would benefit from slowing down their tempo overall, as most players are too quick with their movements in the takeaway and backswing. When trying to hit a long drive, it feels like you should take the club away quickly and race through the backswing – but that isn't the case at all. You don't need to be in a hurry to get through your swing. Use a good tempo that is comfortable to you, and you should experience improvements in distance and consistency.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions accordingly.
Evaluating Your Current Tempo
You dont want to go making changes to your golf swing when there is nothing wrong with it in the first place. With that in mind, you need to first evaluate your current tempo before deciding if it needs to be changed. After all, if your tempo is already good, there are certainly other parts of the swing that you could spend your time on instead.
To get an idea of how your tempo is working currently, ask yourself the three questions below. Your answers to these questions will provide a good indication if tempo is something that you need to improve in your swing.
- Do you hit the same ball flight consistently? A sure sign of a good tempo is the ability to hit the same kind of shot swing after swing. If you are hitting a fade with one swing and a draw with the next, you may have a problem in your tempo that needs to be addressed. When your tempo is poor, you will have a hard time predicting where your body is going to be at impact – meaning that your club will not be taking the same path into the ball on every swing. Players with good tempo don't always hit great shots, but they do tend to hit the same kind of shots over and over again.
- Do you top the ball occasionally? If you top your shots from time to time – specifically with your irons – it may be an indication that your tempo is rushed from the top of the backswing down toward impact. This is a common mistake to make. Hurrying through your downswing wont allow your body enough time to rotate out of the way, causing the club to release early and start to lift back up before it has reached impact. There are two possible outcomes of this mistake, and neither is a good one. You will either hit the ball fat, or you will top it and it will never get up into the air at all.
- Do you break down under pressure? Possibly the surest sign of a bad tempo is having problems hitting good shots when the pressure is on. Pressure has a way of exposing weakness on the golf course, and you need to have a good tempo to protect yourself against your nerves. When you cant rely on a consistent tempo to get you through the shot, you are far more likely to break down and struggle under pressure. Think about the last few times you have been nervous prior to hitting a shot – how did those shots work out? If they weren't very good, you can bet that your tempo needs some work.
It is important to be honest with yourself during any evaluation of your golf swing. Don't try to ignore problems that are present in your swing just so you can feel better about your game. That wont make you a better golfer. If the answers to these questions point to a problem in your tempo, you should accept the fact that your tempo needs work. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, either – you can look at it as an opportunity to improve. Once you achieve a better tempo through some hard work on the driving range, you can look forward to better performances on the course.
Finding the Right Pace for You
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tempo in golf. Every player will have a tempo that is their own, and you should not try to copy the tempo of another golfer. Your tempo is something that has to be authentic and natural to you, or it wont ever work the way you want it to. Take the time to develop your own tempo and you will be left with a golf swing that should remain consistent for years to come.
The first step in finding your own tempo is to think about what kind of person you are away from the golf course. Are you someone who likes to talk quickly and is always in a hurry? Or are you someone that talks slowly, moves slowly, and is never in a rush? Your personality traits say a lot about the kind of golf swing that you should try to make. Using a golf swing that runs opposite of your personality is a recipe for failure. People who move quickly in life should also move quickly in golf, and vice versa. You need to be true to yourself.
To take this line of thinking a step further, it is also important for you to think about your behavioral traits on the golf course itself. For many people, these will be the same as they are in every other walk of life. For others, however, they may be quite a bit different. For example, some people might move quickly through their regular life at work and at home, but they shift gears and take it slow when it comes to playing golf. More than anything, the tempo that you use in your golf swing needs to be a reflection of your personality on the golf course. Walking up to your ball quickly and then trying to make a slow swing just isn't going to work. Everything that you do on the course – from walking and talking to swinging and putting – should fall nicely within the same type of rhythm.
Take some time to think about your personality in life in general, and specifically on the golf course. If necessary, you could even ask some of your regular playing partners to offer their feedback. What have they noticed about your habits on the golf course? Do they see you as someone moving quickly, or as someone taking their time? An outside perspective can be a great benefit because you might not be able to objectively observe your own behaviors. Once you have gathered as much information as possible, you should have a clear picture of what kind of swing tempo you are trying to create. Remember, the goal is to have your tempo match your on-course personality, not the other way around. You don't want to try changing your natural behaviors and habits on the course – it is much easier to change your tempo to match.
There is a simpler way of saying everything contained above, and it is this – trust your instincts. If your body naturally wants to swing the golf club with a slow tempo, that is almost certainly the best bet for you. If your natural inclination is to make a quick swing from start to finish, don't fight that either. You can certainly improve on your natural tempo to make it more consistent and reliable, but making radical changes is almost always a bad idea.
Some Tempo Drills
No matter what kind of tempo you have decided will work best in your game – anywhere from very slow to very quick – you can use a few different drills to help engrain that tempo into your swing. The important thing is that it is the same from shot to shot so you know what to expect on the course. If your tempo is changing throughout a round of golf, you have very little chance of playing well on that day.
The first tempo drill for you to try doesn't even require the use of a golf club, and you don't even need to be at the driving range. For this drill, all you will need is a full-size golf towel and room to make some pretend swings. To start, lay out the towel flat on the ground, and then roll it up along the long side. You should be left with a long noodle shape. Now, tie a knot in one end of the towel to prevent it from coming unwound.
With the towel rolled up and knotted, grab the end of the towel opposite from the knot and take your regular golf grip and stance (pretending that the towel is a club). With your stance taken, start to make some practice swings just like you would if you were warming up for a round with your regular golf clubs. You will quickly notice that you cant make any sudden movements with the towel because it doesn't have the rigidity of a golf club. If you try to make a sudden change of direction in your swing, the towel will lag behind and you wont be able to finish the swing properly. Do as many repetitions as needed until you are able to make a smooth swing from start to finish using your rolled up towel.
The point of this drill is quite simple – to break you from the habit of changing directions quickly in your swing. Even if you are using a fast tempo, you still don't want to do anything too suddenly during the swing or you will have trouble making solid contact. Whether using a slow or fast tempo, making a smooth and rhythmic swing should always be your goal. Once you are happy with the progress that you have made with the towel drill, you can move on.
There is one other tempo drill for you to work on, but this one will need to be done at the driving range where you can actually hit some shots. Controlling the speed of your swing, and hitting the ball different distances, is all about managing your tempo. You will only be able to hit the ball the right distance on command when you are correctly using a steady tempo throughout your swing.
To see how your tempo is doing, and to improve it over time, try the following drill.
- To start, pick out the club from your bag that you hit closest to 150 yards in the air with a full swing. For a powerful player that might mean a nine iron, while a shorter hit could use a six or seven iron. It doesn't particularly matter which club it is – just choose the one that you would use on the course if you were faced with a 150 yard shot.
- Now that you have the right club in hand, look around the driving range and find a target that is as close to 150 yards as possible. If the range doesn't have a marker right at 150, you can estimate another landmark on the range so you have a pretty good judge of that distance. It doesn't need to be exact for the purposes of this drill, but get as close as you can.
- You also need to find a target that is 100 yards away from where you are hitting. Most driving ranges have a 100 yard marker in place, so this should be easy.
- Take ten golf balls and set them aside. You are going to hit all ten balls with the same club, but you are going to alternate back and forth between hitting at the 150 yard marker, and the 100 yard marker. Of course, the 150 shot should be easier, since you have picked the appropriate club for that distance. When hitting shots toward the 100 yard mark, you will need to adjust your swing correctly in order to reduce the overall distance of the shot.
- Don't hit low punch shots at the 100 yard target in order to get your ball to fly shorter. Instead, try making your normal swing with your usual ball position, only with a softer motion through impact. This is all about controlling tempo. If you can use a soft and smooth tempo to make your swing at the shorter target, you should be able to hit a nice-looking shot that lands close to 100 yards.
- Use this drill as often as necessary to learn how to manage the speed of your swing. If you do the drill regularly, you should notice that your tempo starts to improve for all of your swings, not just the soft ones.
Managing Tempo on the Golf Course
As you certainly already know, it is harder to make good swings on the golf course than it is on the practice range. Getting your tempo dialed in on the range is a good first step, but you are a long way from finished at that point. You still have to successfully take it out onto the range, and then maintain it through a full 18-hole round. Thorough preparation on the driving range is so important because you will need those repetitions to help carry you through the difficulties you face on the course.
To hold your tempo steady throughout a round of golf, the first thing you need to do is manage your emotions. Tempo and emotion are closely connected, and your game can quickly fall apart when either of them get out of line. If you allow yourself to get angry or frustrated during your round, it is likely that your tempo will speed up and your swing will suffer. In much the same way, getting too excited can speed up your tempo and damage your game. To play consistently from the first shot all the way to the last, you want to keep your emotions as even as possible. Don't let a bad shot make you angry, and don't let a good shot get you too excited. It is certainly okay to enjoy your good shots and have fun on the course, but make sure to bring your emotions back down to level before you hit your next shot.
Another potential danger as it relates to your tempo is watching the swings of other golfers in your group. If you watch all of the shots that your playing partners hit during the round, you might accidentally allow their tempos to slide into your own swing. This is a problem specifically when you are just getting started working on your new tempo because it might not be totally comfortable just yet. To avoid this problem, try looking down when your partners are making their swings. You can still look up after they hit the ball to help them track where it goes, but avoid watching their swing mechanics so you don't get distracted by what they are doing.
Great tempo is one of the leading elements in playing good golf. The best players in the world all have a wonderful tempo in their swings – even if they might have some unique mechanics along the way. Tempo can help you hit quality shots on a consistent basis, and it can also help you deal with pressure. Just like any other aspect of your game, tempo needs to be worked on during your practice sessions if you hope to improve it out on the course. Take some time to address your tempo during your next few visits to the driving range and the improvements should quickly show on the scorecard.