Tempo is one of the most important fundamentals in golf but it’s not always easy to teach or understand.
Basically, it refers to the speed and rhythm of the swing. There may not be one absolute correct tempo in golf but some research suggests that the best players in the world all tend to have very similar tempos and are remarkably good at consistently swinging within their tempo.
Yale University researchers Robert Grober and Jacek Cholewicki conducted a study on tempo in the golf swing and discovered results that have helped many instructors and players to better develop and teach golf swing tempo. As previously mentioned, they found that the swings of professional golfers had very similar tempos and also that they tended to be faster than the amateurs that were tested. With incredible consistency, the best golfers hit the ball using a 3:1 time ratio of backswing to downswing.
A common method for teaching tempo is the use of some kind of cadence or expression to use as a guide to swing. Some suggest counting to 3 during your swing can help groove a good rhythm while suggesting faster swingers to count to 2. For example, a smooth tempo player might initiate her swing with saying “1” as the backswing starts, “2” as it reaches the top of the backswing, and “3” on the downswing. Faster tempo players may simply start back with “1” and swing down with “2”.
In the Inner Game of Golf, Timothy Gallwey suggests swinging while saying to yourself, “da-da-da”. This is very similar to the counting method and as Gallwey noted, this method also helps you stay focused. The golf swing is a complicated motion and to hit the ball well, you can’t be thinking about all your swing notes at once. But you also don’t want to fall prey to the ocean of negative thoughts that tries to flood your mind before you make your swing. Since it’s best to only keep a few swing thoughts in your head at once, having one that helps you swing in a consistent rhythm is a valuable tool to have.
I suggest trying out these methods and I strongly encourage you to experiment on your own to find what rhythm cues work best for you. As you learn more about the swing and improve your game, you will still always want to ensure your swing has good rhythm and tempo. This is one of those fundamentals along with the grip and posture that simply needs to be correct. And again, there is not one correct method. The key is to practice until you discover your ideal tempo and be consistent with it.