Swing tempo is crucial to being able to hit consistent golf shots. Good swing tempo helps players to look smooth during the golf swing and effortless and it can often hide a multitude of technical errors.
More consistent players demonstrate a three to one ratio for tempo during the golf swing. Their backswing takes three times longer to complete than their downswing tempo. This ratio allows players the time to create a good backswing position, with balance and stability that they can then accelerate towards the ball from creating maximum club head speed through impact with the golf ball.
A great way to achieve this swing tempo ratio would be to actually count during your golf swing. Count one, two, three, during your backswing at an even relaxed pace. Keep the numbers even and constant and fit how you are swinging the club to when you are saying the numbers, rather than fitting the numbers to when you are in that position. One should be as you begin your takeaway, two as you are half way through your backswing and three when you reach the top of your backswing. Four should be at impact as you hit the ball. Again say the numbers in a relaxed, even and steady way and work on having the club in the correct position as you say the number so adjust the speed of movement in the club accordingly.
Another way to improve swing tempo would be to play a game called 'back hit'. This game will help to improve your timing, create a pause at the top of your backswing and then help you to accelerate into impact. To play this, simply say the word 'back' when you are at the top of your backswing and then say the word 'hit' as you strike the ball. Work on saying the words at the correct point during your swing. This will help you to focus on your timing and make you more aware of where the club head actually is during your swing. Say this drill out loud and you will be amazed with how far out you are initially between when the club actually hits the ball and when you say it hits the ball - so improve your awareness and timing.
A third drill that will help you to improve your swing tempo is to take your driver and give your usual swing a speed value of 10. Hit some shots now that only have a speed value of 3 and they only fly about a third of your usual driving distance. Once you have hit a few shots like this, take the speed up to 6, just above half speed. Again, hit the ball at a speed of only 6 and the ball should travel only two thirds of your usual driving distance.
Now finally take the speed to 8. You will see that the ball travels as far as it usually does when you are trying to hit it really hard. This helps for two main reasons. Firstly, you are making a slower, more consistent swing and you will achieve a more solid connection with the ball that is more from the middle of the club face. The second reason this works is that you are ingraining making a slower, more controlled movement and removing the reason for your lack of tempo, wanting to hit it a long way!
Best Three Ways to Help Improve Swing Tempo
When you watch professional golf on TV, it doesn't take long to notice the one thing that all of the swings seem to have in common – beautiful tempo. Sure, there are technical differences from player to player in the way they swing the club, but each player has an excellent tempo that keeps them on track and consistent from shot to shot. It is nearly impossible to play good golf without a good tempo, yet many amateurs never even think about this part of the swing. To improve your game going forward, working on your tempo is one of the best ways you can spend your practice time.
Unfortunately, tempo is something that can be difficult for golf instructors to teach. It is much easier to direct a student into specific physical positions than it is to help them produce a smooth, flowing tempo. Your tempo is something that has to come from within, as there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to this part of the game. Some golfers succeed with a slow, methodical tempo, while other players thrive when the swing the club quickly from start to finish. Rather than having someone else tell you at what speed you should be swinging the club, you are going to need to figure this one out on your own.
With that said, there are some things you can do in an effort to find the tempo that is going to serve you best. In this article, we are going to look at three different ways in which you can attempt to improve your swing tempo. Most likely, you will not find all three of these methods to be helpful. However, if even just one of these options is able to help you find the road toward improved tempo, you will have spent your time wisely. Improving on tempo is something that, while not easy to do, and have a profound impact on the quality of your game. Better tempo will help you from tee to green, and it is almost certain that your scores will come down as a result.
In order to actually improve on your tempo, you are going to have to commit practice time to this area of your game. No part of your golf game is going to improve without practice, and that certainly includes your swing tempo. Each time you head to the driving range for a practice session, set aside at least a little bit of time to work specifically on improving your tempo. This will be some of the most-beneficial time you spend at the range, and the benefits to your game will quickly show themselves. It might not be as fun to work on your tempo as it is to launch drives down the range in rapid succession, but those who are serious about lower scores will be willing to put in the work.
All of the instructional content 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.
#1 – Slow, Medium, Fast
One of the best, and most obvious, ways to find the right tempo for your swing is simply to try out a variety of different tempos on the range. As the saying goes, you won't know unless you try. By spending time on the range working on your tempo, you will have the luxury of being able to hit bad shots along the way without having to worry about the results. As long as you have a large bucket of practice balls and a bag full of clubs, you can get down to work on identifying the perfect tempo for your game.
If you would like to experiment with a variety of different tempos during your next practice session, follow the steps outlined below.
- You are going to start this process with the shortest clubs in your bag (other than your putter) and work your way up to the driver. So, excluding your putter, you should have 13 'full swing' clubs to hit, and you are going to hit three shots with each club. Obviously, that means this drill will require you to hit 39 total shots. Of course, if you aren't up to the task of hitting 39 shots in a single practice session, you can certainly cut the drill down shorter by excluding some of your clubs. You never want to practice when you are physically getting tired, as the swings you make when tired are always going to be something short of ideal. Even though golf is not the most physically demanding game in the world, you need to be sure to always remain within your physical limitations.
- For each club that you take out of the bag, you are going to hit three shots – one with a slow tempo, one with a medium tempo, and one with a fast tempo. It is important to note that tempo does not refer to how quickly the club is moving through the hitting area. Rather, it refers to the pace of the swing from start to finish. So, a swing with a slow tempo is going to use a leisurely pace to take the club back up to the top, and the transition will be methodical as well. On the other hand, a fast swing is going to be quick right from the start.
- You should hit all three shots with each club before moving on to the next. So, if you start with your lob wedge, you are going to begin the drill by hitting three lob wedge shots (one with each type of tempo). Then, move down to your sand wedge and repeat the process. If you are going to do the complete drill, you will keep going until you have gone all the way through your driver.
- Every shot that you hit should have a specific target, and you should be taking care to form a good stance over the ball prior to starting your swing. Cutting corners is never going to get you anywhere in this game, so pay attention to detail while working through this process. Watch the ball fly on each shot all the way until it lands, and take notice of any patterns that you see developing as the drill moves along.
The first time you do this drill, you don't need to worry about doing any specific analysis as to the success or failure of your shots. Instead, just watch the shots fly and take note of how you are feeling during the swings. Does one of the tempos feel better to you than the other two? For most people, it won't take long to settle on a 'winner' in this process. You can feel free to use this drill as many times as necessary to decide what kind of tempo you are going to use moving forward, but there is a good chance that you will have your mind made after just one trip through your bag.
Now that you have decided what kind of tempo you are going to use in your golf swing, you can set about the task of repeating that tempo over and over again until it becomes comfortable and reliable. Even if you have done a good job of picking the tempo that comes most-naturally to you, it is still going to take practice to execute that tempo on a consistent basis. Pay attention to tempo above all else as you hit practice shots and you should gradually improve on this important point.
#2 – Learn to Control Your Breathing
In this section, we are going to talk about improving on your tempo by controlling your breathing on the course. For the sake of this discussion, we are going to assume that you now have your tempo figured out on the practice range, and you can repeat that tempo over and over again while on the range. Unfortunately, even for players who have a great handle on their tempo in practice, taking that tempo out onto the golf course can be a serious challenge. There are emotions and feelings on the course that you simply don't get on the range, and your tempo can quickly fall victim as a result. When you hear people complain that they are unable to take their 'range game' out onto the course, it is most likely that they are struggling to translate their tempo from practice to the real thing.
So how do you gain control over your tempo when you are on the course? One of the best things you can do is learn to control your breathing prior to making a swing. The natural reaction to pressure is to speed up, so there is a good chance that your tempo is getting too fast when playing a round of golf. If you usually use a slow tempo, you may move closer to the 'medium' category during your rounds. Or, if you already use a fast tempo, you might wind up even faster and out of control. By managing your breathing, you can bring your emotions in check and pull your tempo back down to its proper speed.
The time to manage your breathing is during your pre-shot routine, just prior to stepping into your stance. As you stand behind the ball looking out toward the target, take a deep breath in and out. This breath should be slow and measured, and you shouldn't feel rushed in any way. Once you have emptied your lungs, breathe in again as you start to walk up to the ball. Then, as you take your stance, blow that deep breath out one more time. Just like that, you will have taken two slow, deep breaths and you will be standing over the ball ready to swing. While that might not seem like a big deal, the impact that those deep breaths can have on your tempo is not to be overlooked.
It will take some discipline to put yourself through this short deep breathing process even during the heat of competition. If you are nervous about an upcoming shot, your natural inclination is going to be to get the shot over with as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, being in a rush is certain to ruin your tempo and the outcome of the shot. So, you need to fight back against your natural tendency. Instead of rushing, slow yourself down and focus on completing a couple of deep breaths properly. Those breaths will put you in a good frame of mind for the shot, and they will help to slow down your overall pace. When the swing begins, focus on staying within yourself and trusting the practice time that you have put in to your game.
#3 – Turn It Down
It is tempting to swing as hard as possible on each shot that you hit during a round of golf. That temptation is always present for the average golfer, and it is even stronger when you are standing on the tee. After all, you certainly want to outdrive your buddies whenever possible, and you can't live up to your distance potential without swinging flat out.
Or can you? Despite what you may believe about the golf swing, you don't necessarily need to swing as hard as possible in order to maximize distance. In fact, if you are willing to turn down your swing throughout the course of a round, you will likely find improved results all across the board. Not only can you actually hit the ball farther when you turn down your swing, but your tempo (and consistency) should improve as well.
As a good rule of thumb, you should only be swinging at about 80-90% effort on any given shot. By swinging at less than 100%, you will stand a great chance of maintaining the integrity of your tempo while on the course. Swinging extra hard in an effort to hit the ball as far as possible is a sure way to wreck your tempo, so there is no need to go down that road. Unless you have a specific reason for swinging extra hard – like trying to dig the ball out of some deep rough – you will be far better served to turn it down a bit.
Of course, if you are going to swing softer out on the course, you need to start by swinging softer during your practice sessions. Golf is a game that is all about accuracy – or, at least, it should be. In recent years, the game has become more and more focused on distance, and many players have gotten worse as a result. Sheer power will never be a replacement for distance in this game, so resist the urge to swing with everything you have. A golfer who hit the ball a modest distance with great accuracy will always have a chance to post a good score. The same cannot be said for the golfer who hits the ball prodigious distances but has no idea where it is going.
So how does your tempo benefit as a result of swinging at something less than 100%? Well, for one thing, your mind will be able to focus on making a smooth swing since you won't be obsessed with taking it to the red line. You don't have time to think about more than one or maybe two things while you swing, so you don't want to give up that brain space to thoughts of sheer power. Instead, you can dedicate your thinking to maintaining a smooth and even tempo which allows you to move through the ball in the same way time after time. Even though the professional golfers you see on TV are able to crush the ball great distances, they still aren't swinging as hard as possible. Pro players know that they need to emphasize control and tempo over raw power, and you should be making the same choice.
Tempo in the Short Game
So far, we have been focused on improving the tempo that you use in your full swing. That is, of course, only half of the battle – you need to use good tempo in your short game as well. The short game is incredibly important as you work toward shooting lower scores, as you can't get around the course successfully without plenty of good chip shots and made putts. Too many amateur golfers completely overlook the short game in their practice sessions, and the results speak for themselves.
If you would like to work on improving the tempo that you use within your short game, keep the following tips in mind as you practice.
- Breathing is still important. Just as you did prior to hitting full shots, you should use deep breathing to calm yourself down before playing short game shots. It is common to get nervous over short game shots out on the course – especially the shots that you feel like you should be able to handle successfully. There is something about a short, flat putt, for example, that has a way of bringing your nerves right to the edge. By using deep breathing techniques right before hitting your short game shots, you should be able to maintain your tempo in much the same way that you did with your full swing.
- Let your putting stroke develop naturally. Nowhere on the course is it as common to rush through a shot as it is on the greens. When you are facing a makeable putt, it is easy to let your mind run away with all of the potential scenarios such as leaving the ball short, pulling it left, pushing it right, misreading the break, and more. With all of those thoughts running through your head, you can easily find yourself hurrying through the act of swinging the putter back and through. Don't fall into that trap. After you use deep breathing to calm yourself down, you then need to let the stroke develop naturally just as it would on the practice green. Swing the putter back, give it plenty of time to transition, and let it swing through with an even tempo. There should be no part of the stroke that feels rushed in any way. You aren't worried about creating power or distance with your putting stroke, so relax and let the stroke flow beautifully from start to finish.
- Feel the weight of your wedges. When you step back off of the green to hit a chip or pitch shot, you are going to want to use the weight of your wedges to your advantage. Specifically, you are going to need to feel the weight of the club head as you swing the wedge back and through. Your tempo will greatly benefit from feeling the weight of the club, which is why you should not choke down very far on the grip when hitting these kinds of shots. Many golf teachers would tell you to choke down significantly on the grip, but that adjustment is going to take away from the feel that you have for the club (since the club will feel lighter as you swing). So, keep your hands up near the top of the grip, only choking down by an inch or maybe two. With plenty of weight down below your hands to guide your tempo, swing back and through at an even pace. It will take some practice to learn how to chip while keeping your hands near the top of the grip, but your tempo should be dramatically improved once you master this technique.
Tempo is a vital part of the game of golf. It is nearly impossible to play well on a consistent basis without great tempo – which is why all of the pro golfers you see on TV have their tempo down perfectly. Make sure you are working on this part of your swing during each of your practice sessions, and use the information within this article to point yourself in the right direction. Good luck!