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.

What is the Correct Swing Tempo in Golf?

What is the Correct Swing Tempo in Golf?

When was the last time you worked on your swing tempo? If you are anything like most other recreational players, the answer is probably 'never'. For some reason, tempo is something which is usually overlooked when it comes to practicing the golf swing. Professionals certainly understand the importance of mastering a great tempo, but that importance seems to be lost on the typical amateur. If you are looking for a great way to improve your game and get a leg up on your competition at the local club, this is it – invest some time and energy in learning to swing with a smooth tempo and your game is sure to improve.

There is no doubt that tempo is one of the most important elements in your golf swing. However, with that said, we are afraid that it will be impossible to answer the question which was posed in the title of this article. There simply isn't a 'correct swing tempo' in golf, because each player is a unique individual. The tempo that works best for your game might not work at all for another player, and vice versa. Indeed, the only 'right' tempo in golf is the one which suits your swing and your personality. The challenge you are going to face with regard to tempo is finding the right one for you, and then repeating that tempo over and over again.

In this article, we are going to discuss the topic of tempo from a variety of angles. By gaining a better understanding of what tempo is, and why it is important, you will be able to get to work on sharpening up this part of your own game. Your tempo isn't going to improve all on its own, so you will need to dedicate practice time to this pursuit. It is likely going to take a bit of time to find the right rhythm for your game, but your patience and effort will be rewarded when you start to play some of the best golf of your life.

It is often a good idea for amateur golfers to use formal lessons as a path to improvement. However, in this case, we would suggest that you work on this area of the game all on your own. Most teachers struggle to help golfers with their tempo, as this is an in individual swing element that is going to vary wildly from one player to the next. A golf teacher might be able to tell you that your tempo is a bit off, but he or she may not be able to help you get on the right track. Instead of looking for professional help, commit yourself to some hard work on the driving range and find your own ideal tempo the old fashioned way – one swing at a time.

All of the 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.

How Tempo Helps You Play Better Golf

How Tempo Helps You Play Better Golf

If you stop to think about your swing technique and mechanics, you probably think about the way your body moves in terms of positions. You picture your address position, your position at the top of the swing, and your position at impact. These are moments in time, and they can be helpful when analyzing your technique. They are not, however, the entire picture of your swing. The golf swing is a dynamic motion, and the tempo you use to get all the way back and through is just as important as the positions you reach. Positions are only half of the story, as a golfer with great positions and no rhythm will not play at a high level anytime soon.

To help you understand how tempo can help you reach your potential on the links, we have compiled the following list. Any golfer searching for the motivation needed to work on their swing tempo can review this list and then get to work.

  • Deliver the club at the same time over and over again. Tempo and consistency are closely related. While your body does need to be in good positions, your tempo is what will make sure that the club comes through the hitting area at the right moment. A smooth tempo which doesn't vary from shot to shot is going to allow you to produce repeatable swings. Most amateur golfers who struggle with their consistency are really dealing with a tempo problem above all else. Learn how to repeat a smooth tempo and your consistency issues will go away.
  • Perform well under pressure. Whether you notice it or not, there is plenty of pressure to be found on the golf course. That doesn't just apply to players who tee it up for a living – it applies to everyone who plays the game. You might get a little nervous when teeing off in front of other golfers, or you may tighten up when you are getting close to a new personal record. No matter where pressure happens to find you on the course, it is important that you are able to deal with it properly. One of the best ways to manage it is to have a great tempo in your swing. Most people naturally speed up under pressure, as they want to get the shot over with and eliminate the nervous feeling from their system. Of course, rushing through your swing is no recipe for success. By having a reliable tempo in place, you can fall back on that tempo when the heat is on. That doesn't mean you will come up with a great shot every time you are nervous, but your odds of success will be improved.
  • Maximize your power potential. Tempo on its own isn't going to help you hit longer shots, but it will help you to get the most out of the power potential which exists in your swing. A swing with a good tempo is going to be efficient, meaning a high percentage of your power is going to be translated into the ball at impact. Without good tempo, the timing of the hit will be wrong, and you will almost certainly waste a lot of your swing speed. Many amateur golfers try to add distance by just swinging as hard as possible, but that is a method which is sure to fail. Instead, forget about trying to overpower the golf ball and focus on dialing in the right tempo. With tempo on your side, powerful shots are probably just around the corner.

There are more benefits to be enjoyed than just the three listed above when you install a great tempo into your swing. However, these three are the big keys, and they are sure to help you become a better player. If you used to think that you could afford to ignore tempo while just working on other elements in your game, you should now know that you would be making a mistake with that plan. Give yourself a chance to work on your tempo during an upcoming trip to the driving range and better golf will be waiting around the corner.

The Magic of the Counting Drill

The Magic of the Counting Drill

As we said earlier in this article, it is hard to teach another golfer how to swing with a good tempo. Your tempo is something that comes mostly from within, so you need to discover it for yourself. With that said, you can use a specific drill to help you uncover the tempo which is going to lead you to the best golf. This drill is incredibly simple, it is easy-to-use, and it just might help you unlock a tempo you never knew was waiting to be used.

To use the counting drill during an upcoming practice session, please follow the steps below.

1. For this drill, you are going to need your driver, a few golf tees, some practice golf balls, and a place to hit those balls on the range. It would be best if could find a quiet corner of the range where you can focus in on your practice session without being distracted by others.

2. To get started with the first shot, tee up a ball and pick out a target in the distance. No matter what you happen to be working on in your game, you should always have a target in mind for your shots. Golf is a target-based game, after all, so you never want to miss out on a chance to improve your aiming ability.

3. With your aim sorted out, take your stance and get ready to hit the first shot. However, you are going to do something a little different during this swing, as compared to a normal pass at the ball. During this swing, you are going to count – out loud – from one to four. The timing of each number is important, so the breakdown is listed below –

  • Count the number one when you start the swing.
  • Count the number two when you reach the halfway-back point of the backswing.
  • Count the number three when you reach the top of your swing.
  • Count the number four when you strike the ball.

4. The goal during the counting process is to make the cadence as even as possible from one number to the next. You don't want to feel like you are changing speeds as you count – the numbers should line up nicely in a comfortable rhythm.

5. Hit as many shots as you would like using the counting drill, and feel free to mix up the clubs you use as well.

So what is so helpful about counting while you swing? Hearing your tempo out loud is a great way to get into a nice rhythm. You should be able to quickly iron out any problems with your tempo once you start to hear the pace of your swing called out while the club is in motion.

The real beauty of this drill lies in the fact that it allows you to use whatever tempo you like, while still helping you to make it even. If you are more comfortable swinging the club at a fast pace, that will work in this drill. Want to swing slowly? No problem. The drill is focused on evening out any inconsistencies in your pace, so it will work as long as you keep up the same tempo from start to finish.

You can use the counting drill throughout your golf game, from your driver on down to your short game shots. Even tempo is something that will always be important in golf, so it would be a good idea to make this simple drill part of your routine. Hit a few balls near the start of each practice session while using the counting drill and then move on from there.

Getting Back into Tempo on the Course

Getting Back into Tempo on the Course

By using the counting drill, you should be able to work yourself into a pretty good tempo on the driving range. With enough practice, that tempo will start to show up on the course, and your game will improve as a result. This is going to be rather exciting, as there will be newfound potential in your game simply because you took the time to learn how to swing the club with a steady rhythm.

However, as is usually the case in golf, this isn't going to go as smoothly as you would like. Sure, some days your tempo will be great and you will post a good score, but you are sure to struggle on other days. For whatever reason, you will find that your tempo is 'off' and you are having trouble getting it back. Of course, to play up to your potential, you need to get it back as quickly as you can.

The following list includes three tips which you can use to hopefully rediscover your tempo when it goes missing in the middle of a round.

  • Slow things down. With very few exceptions, you will need to slow yourself down when your tempo gets off track. It is rare for a player to lose their tempo because he or she is swinging too slowly – it almost always works in the other direction. When you notice that your swing feels off and the results are ugly, slow yourself down by taking a couple of smooth practice swings before your next shot. Focus on tempo above all else, and even try to make yourself feel like you are swinging too slow. There are plenty of things which can cause you to speed up your swing on the course – pressure, excitement, rushing to get out of the way, etc. – so it will take strong focus to get back on track.
  • Play a safe shot. It is common for golfers to lose their tempo when they are trying too hard to hit great shots. If you are constantly aiming for risky targets located close to hazards, you will find that your swing gets out of rhythm simply due to the pressure. To get back into the groove, pick a safe target for your next shot and make a comfortable swing. Even if this safe shot doesn't put you in great position near the hole, at least you will have made a good swing and you can build up from there. Once you have your confidence back and your tempo is under control, you can gradually begin to play more aggressive golf once again.
  • Take a mental break. If you are really 'locked in' to your round – meaning you are trying your hardest to play good golf – you could overdo it and wind up taking yourself out of a normal rhythm. One of the best things you can do at this point is to take a mental break between shots to think about something else. For instance, if you have to wait for a couple minutes on the tee of a par three, don't just stand there thinking about your shot. Walk off to the side, look at the view, or chat with a playing partner – but not about golf. Get your mind away from the game briefly to reset, and come back with a new focus once it is your turn to hit. You might be surprised how helpful this mental break can be in terms of putting your tempo back in order.

It is frustrating to have your tempo go off-track during the middle of a round after working hard to improve it on the range. However, you shouldn't get too down on yourself when this happens – golf is a difficult game, and everyone loses their way from time to time. Use the tips above to recover as quickly as possible and limit the damage. Over time, you will get better and better at putting your game back in order, and your scores will improve as a result.

Tempo is Crucial in the Short Game

Tempo is Crucial in the Short Game

Earlier, we mentioned how the counting drill can be used in your short game just as it is used in the long game. That is the case because maintaining a solid tempo with your short game is critically important. Whether you are putting, chipping, or pitching, using a reliable tempo will make your results more consistent. How does a good tempo help your short game? Consider the benefits listed below.

  • Controlling your distance. The main job you have to manage in the short game is controlling the distance the ball travels. Most golfers focus on the line of their shots when on or around the green, but it is actually pretty easy to get the ball on line. The far more difficult task is hitting the ball with the proper speed. By using a reliable tempo, you should be able to control the power of your short game shots with more accuracy than if you let the pace of your swing vary from time to time. When you watch golf on TV, take note of how the players use a consistent tempo to play their short game shots. This is the model you should be copying, and you will start to see improved results when you do.
  • Making clean contact. This is not an issue when on the putting green, but it does become quite important when playing from around the green with a chip or pitch shot. Many amateur golfers struggle to hit the ball cleanly in the short game, and that is usually because they are using an inconsistent tempo. By evening things out, you can deliver the club into the ball at the right time over and over again – meaning you should be able to avoid thin and fat shots as a result. Hitting your short game shots cleanly will help you to manage your distances, and it will also build up your confidence.
  • Handling pressure. Nowhere on the golf course does pressure make itself known more than in the short game. When playing short shots, you are likely to feel nervous and you may struggle to perform as a result. While a good tempo can't completely take the nerves away, it can help you to perform well even when feeling those butterflies in your stomach. All golfers feel pressure at one time or another, so building a great tempo in your short game should help you to play your best regardless of the stakes.

Tempo is one of the most important elements of your golf swing. Whether you are trying to hit a 300-yard drive or you just need to pitch the ball a few yards onto the green, a good tempo can help you get the job done. During your next practice session, spend some time working on this critical piece of the golf swing puzzle and you will be taking your game in the right direction. Since this is an element of your golf swing which can always use more work, keep this point on your practice priority list moving forward to maintain – and improve – your level of play. Good luck!