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Some golfers begin their rounds with excellent rhythm, only to struggle as their tempo deteriorates late in the day. Others battle nerves and a quick swing early on, then smooth out as they settle down.

Ideally, the pace of your swing should remain constant from first hole to last, regardless of factors like nervous energy, anger, dejection or fatigue. Few if any golfers can manage this naturally over the long haul of 18 holes, however, so here are a few ways to maintain consistent tempo:

  • Follow a pre-shot routine: This is the key to consistency in every facet of golf, tempo included. Taking the same steps and the same amount of time before each shot evens out your pace. It can slow you down when you're amped up, and speed you up when your adrenaline is running low. Your routine should include at least one practice swing, which can emulate the exact pace with which you want to hit the ball or feature a slightly slower tempo.
  • Have a go-to tempo drill: Inevitably, your rhythm will get out of whack during a round. When you sense this happening, it's good to have a drill or thought handy to bring it back in line. For example, if you're getting too quick (highly common), take a series of extra-slow practice swings between shots, about 60% of your normal pace. Long, deep breaths help too.

Work on tempo between rounds: The best way to ensure consistent tempo is to make it automatic through repetition. Your practice sessions should always include a few minutes of tempo work; the feet-together drill is unbeatable, and can be done at home without hitting a ball. Also, you should utilize your on-course pre-shot routine before every ball you hit on the range.

It will take a few more minutes to finish a bucket, but you'll have better rhythm to show for it.

How to Maintain Tempo from First Hole to Last

How to Maintain Tempo from First Hole to Last

When you step up to the first tee to start a new round, what are you thinking about? If you are like most amateur golfers, you are probably thinking about things that have very little to do with your performance on the golf course. Did you remember to lock the car? Is anyone watching you tee off? Are there enough snacks in your bag to make it through the round? It is easy to let your mind wander when playing golf, and that wandering starts immediately upon reaching the first tee. As you might expect, thinking about other things is not exactly the best way to play good golf.

So what should you be thinking about? In this article, we are going to make the argument for paying attention to your tempo from the first hole on through to the last. Tempo is an often-overlooked piece of the golf swing puzzle which should receive more attention than it gets currently. When you have good tempo, you can actually overcome some minor mechanical mistakes in your swing. Nearly every professional golfer in the world has an excellent tempo on which he or she has built a swing. Learn how to maintain your tempo throughout a given round and you will be a better golfer instantly.

Of course, maintaining a steady tempo as you go through a round is going to be far easier said than done. There are many challenges you will face which threaten to knock your tempo off track without any warning at all. Knowing how to avoid these issues is a skill you will have to develop if you are going to live up to your potential as a player. It is often the case that good golf is not exactly exciting golf. Keeping yourself level and calm from the first tee to the last is more important than getting fired up after a great shot. If you allow your adrenaline, or your frustration, to run away from you at any point, your tempo will be affected. There is a reason professional golfers rarely show any emotion – it is easier to play well when you stay on a flat line all day long.

It is easy to get caught up in the mechanics of your swing, but obsessing over mechanics is not likely to make you a great player on the course. Golf is about more than just making pretty swings – you have to know how to play the game as well. Getting your ball around the course safely is going to be easier with a solid fundamental swing, of course, but it will also be easier when you can rely on your tempo to hold steady. Make your tempo one of your top priorities on the links and your game is sure to take a step forward.

All of the advice offered below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Benefits of Great Tempo

The Benefits of Great Tempo

Whether you know it yet or not, there is a lot to be gained from having an excellent tempo in your golf swing. It could be argued that tempo is more important than any one single fundamental, as you can overcome some other mistakes as long as your tempo is sorted out nicely. Any way you look at it, solid tempo simply makes golf an easier game to play.

The following list highlights a few of the biggest benefits to using great tempo in your swing.

  • Consistency. The best thing about using a great tempo on the course is the fact that you are going to be more consistent from swing to swing. Consistency is notoriously difficult to find in golf, but you can take a step in that direction when you improve your tempo. Even if your mechanics vary throughout the day, using the same tempo is going to deliver the club into the ball in a very similar pattern. This means less variation in your shot pattern, more consistent results, and better scores when the day is over. If you are frustrated by your inability to post solid scores round after round, focus your energy on improving your tempo and those concerns will soon be a thing of the past.
  • Added distance. Most golfers think that hitting the ball farther is all about swinging harder. That is not necessarily true. You can add distance to your shots simply by improving your timing as you will be able to sync up all of your movements to culminate in a solid strike. You need to find the sweet spot if you are going to hit the ball farther, and players with excellent tempo tend to find the sweet spot more frequently than those who have no rhythm. You won't feel like you are swinging any harder just because you improve your tempo, but you should find that the ball does wind up traveling a greater distance.
  • Performance under pressure. Another big edge that you can gain by improving your tempo is the way you will be able to play under pressure. It's hard to make your best golf swings when the pressure is on, so any advancement you can make in this area should be welcomed with open arms. All golfers feel some pressure from time to time, even if they don't play in tournaments. When you get late in a round and you have a good score going, those nerves are going to appear – use your tempo to get through them with flying colors.
  • Smoother transition between clubs. It is common for amateur golfers to play well with some of their clubs – only to struggle badly with others. This is frustrating, of course, and it limits the progress you can make with your game. To make the same quality swing from club to club, focus on mastering your tempo. Each club is swung at a unique speed based on its length and the kind of shot at hand, but you can still use the same tempo to move the club back and through. With a steady tempo, there won't be as much adjustment between clubs, and your results will even out in the end.

There is no doubt that learning to use a more consistent tempo can make you a better player. It isn't common for amateur golfers to work on their tempo, which is probably why so many players never really make any progress with their games. If you would like to be the exception to the rule, spend some time on the range learning how to swing the club with a smooth tempo. Doing so is going to make you a more consistent player, and just a better player overall.

The Threats to Your Tempo

The Threats to Your Tempo

Unfortunately, even if you manage to build a great tempo on the range, there are still plenty of threats which can derail that tempo on the course. As is often the case in golf, your game can go missing somewhere between the driving range and the first tee – this is a common complaint among golfers of all skill levels. Often, it is changes in tempo that are at the root of on-course performance problems. If you are a player who tends to strike the ball well on the range but poorly on the course, take a strong look at your tempo as the underlying issue.

Why does your tempo tend to go missing on the course? The following points will bring this topic into focus.

  • Distractions. Losing your focus is one of the quickest ways to get off track with your tempo. And, of course, there are roughly a million possible distractions when you are playing golf. As we mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article, you don't have to look far in golf to find something which can take your mind off the task at hand. Learning to stay focused and control your thinking as you play will make maintaining your tempo a much more realistic task.
  • Frustrations. There is plenty to get frustrated about on the golf course. Maybe you can't seem to make a solid swing today, or maybe you are making good swings but it doesn't seem like you are being rewarded for the effort. Frustration doesn't always have to come from poor performance either, as it can be related to slow pace of play, rude playing partners, etc. Anytime you allow yourself to become frustrated, you are likely to swing the club faster than you would do otherwise. Speeding up your tempo is far more likely than slowing it down, and usually making quick swings comes along when you are annoyed about something on the course. The golfer who can keep his or her temper under control throughout the day is the one who is most likely to do a good job from a tempo perspective.
  • Fatigue. Your tempo can get off track for something as simple as mild fatigue toward the end of the round. Golf usually isn't thought of as a physical sport, but it is easy to get tired after a long day on the links. If you have been playing for several hours in warm conditions, it would not be surprising to find that your legs have started to give out a little bit. If that happens, the entire dynamic of your swing will change, and your tempo is sure to be affected. Do your best to keep fatigue away by keeping yourself in good shape, taking breaks to sit down when you can, staying well hydrated, and finding shade on a hot sunny day. There is no running or jumping involved in golf, but that doesn't mean you can't wind up feeling worn out by the last few holes.
  • Conscious changes. One of the commonly seen mistakes in the amateur game is giving up on your technique or your tempo after just a few holes. For instance, if you get off to a bad start in your next round, you might decide that you need to do something different in your swing. So, you may consciously decide to swing faster or slower. Usually, these kinds of on-the-fly changes are a bad idea. You will be far better served to stick with the swing you had planned on using while just riding out the stretch of poor play. There will always be time later to make changes to your swing on the range, if you do decide that changes are necessary.

Even if you walk to the first tee with great tempo in place, you cannot relax while thinking that your tempo is sure to remain in place all the way through the round. Your golf swing is ever-changing, and that certainly applies to your tempo. It is going to take plenty of focus and effort to maintain your best tempo all the way through an 18-hole round.

A Mature Approach

A Mature Approach

Most golfers are far too invested in what happens during the first few holes of any given round. Those players assume that the start of their round is going to 'set the tone' for the entire day, so they put a ton of pressure on themselves to get off to a good start. If that good start doesn't come, the player may just decide to give up for the day and stop caring about the quality of their game. In reality, you don't need to worry so much about the first few holes. Sure, a good start is better than a bad one, but 18-holes is a long time, and you will have plenty of chances to get things turned around.

Taking the long view with regard to each round of golf is really going to help you stay in your tempo. If you allow yourself to get frustrated early on, it is certain that your tempo will get lost somewhere along the way. View each hole as being equal in importance, and keep plodding along, one shot at a time until you are finished with the round. It takes great discipline to play this kind of golf, but you will be nicely rewarded when all is said and done. New golfers tend to be far too reactionary, so teach yourself how to be patient and calm while on the golf course. Top professional golfers invariably have this ability, and you need to develop it as well.

You also need to be mature on the course in terms of ignoring certain distractions. The classic distraction, especially on public golf courses, is slow play. When the play backs up in front of you, it might be tempting to speed up your own play to compensate. You might rush through your preparations, and more importantly, your swing. Suddenly, you will be using a tempo which is far too quick simply because the players in front of you are not moving along quickly enough. Don't let other players throw you off track. Keep yourself calm, worry only about the things you can control, and remain on tempo all the way through to the final hole.

Before you walk to the first tee, it is a good idea to take a quick look at the scorecard to map out your round in your head. Where are the par fives? Where are the par threes? Par five holes tend to be the easiest on the course, while par threes are often the most difficult. Keep the layout of the course in mind as you get started, and look forward to those par fives as chances to record good scores. This way of thinking should take you out of the frame of mind that you have to play great right from the start. While this might not seem like a point which is directly related to tempo, all of these things are connected. Having a good attitude and a long-range view of the round will help you to stay under control with your tempo no matter what your start may look like.

It is going to take some time to learn how to manage your emotions throughout a round of golf. Since your round takes so long to complete, it is likely that you will go through some emotional ups and downs along the way. That is natural, but do your best to ride them out without letting your technique be affected. With each round you play, you will have 18-holes of additional experience under your belt, and your game will be closer and closer to the steady, consistent product that you desire.

A Variety of Tips

A Variety of Tips

As you work on managing your tempo properly from the first hole to the last, keep the tips listed below in mind.

  • Never try to hit the ball too hard. One of the fastest ways to lose your tempo is simply to swing too hard on any given shot. When you swing harder than normal, your tempo is sure to speed up – and you will likely hit a poor shot as a result. Good golfers rarely go after the ball with full effort. Instead, they just use the right club for the situation, and focus on making a smooth swing with a solid tempo. It is far more important to hit the ball on the sweet spot of the club face than it is to swing as hard as you possibly can. Avoid the temptation to swing out of your shoes and your tempo will thank you.
  • Keep your eyes to yourself. This tip might be a bit surprising, but it is a good idea to avoid watching the other players in your group swing the club. If you watch each of their swing intently, your own swing might begin to change as a result. Instead of watching them swing, keep your eyes on their golf ball while the swing is in motion. Then, once the ball is struck, you can look up and help them track it through the air. By getting out of the habit of watching their swing technique, you will go a long way toward protecting your own tempo.
  • Take a deep breath. You may already have this habit as part of your pre-shot routine, but if not, it would make a great addition. Take a deep breath prior to setting up for any shot you play throughout your round. That deep breath should help calm your nerves, focus your mind, and put you into 'golf mode'. Players who struggle with focus on the golf course may find this tip to be particularly helpful. The best time to take your breath is right before you walk up to the ball. While standing back looking at the target, breathe in and out deeply, and then setup and hit the shot.
  • Relax, relax, relax. The benefit of relaxing while on the golf course cannot be overstated. This is not an effort game – this is a game which is about execution, patience, and skill under pressure. Trying harder in golf is not going to lead to better results. Sure, you need to be focused, but you also need to be relaxed enough to let your preparation and talent take over. Do your best to stay relaxed during each round and trust that the technique you have established in practice will carry you through successfully.

You may not have thought much about your golf swing tempo previously, but it is about time to give this area of your game some serious consideration. By improving your tempo, and maintain that improved tempo throughout each round, your consistency will immediately improve. It is more fun to play golf when you are consistent, and of course that consistency is going to show up on the scorecard. Spend some of your time during upcoming practice sessions working on your tempo and don't be surprised if you play some of your best rounds in the near future. Here's to plenty of great shots hit with a beautiful tempo – good luck!