If you slice and hook shots off the tee indiscriminately or you make contact on the heel or the toe of the club more than on the sweet spot, your swing tempo may be off. For some, the loss of tempo is only temporary. They quickly gain it back. But for others, it’s habitual. Either way, fine-tuning your swing tempo helps drive the ball farther, straighter, and longer—and lowers your golf handicap.
Tempo is often ignored as a swing fundamental, but it’s as critical as the right grip or a smooth one-piece takeaway. Tempo is the speed at which you swing. You can swing fast, slow, or in-between. Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson have fast tempos. Ernie Els and Fred Couples slow tempos. All are good ballstrikers. When it comes to tempo, technical golf instruction is often irrelevant. It’s a matter of feel. You have your own natural tempo, as I’ve explained in several golf tips, and it can be fine-tuned to produce better shots.
So how do you determine what tempo is best for you? In essence, it’s a question of discovery. In the same way you developed your walking pace as a baby, you need to discover your natural swing tempo as a golfer.
Here’s one way I use in golf instruction sessions to find your natural swing tempo:
Tee up four balls in a row. Address the one that’s closest to you and hit it 25 percent of your normal swing speed. Now move to the next ball and hit it 50 percent of your swing speed. Hit the third ball at 75 percent and the fourth ball at 100 percent. Focus on the feel of the different speeds. Do this a few times. Note at which speed you hit the ball best.
Your goal with this exercise is not to try and hit the ball farther or straighter. It’s to find out what your natural swing speed feels like. That’s your best swing speed and the one you should be using. Of course, every day is different and so is your swing depending on the day, so you must learn to adjust your swing speed. Thanks to this drill, you’ll at least know whether to speed up or slow down your swing to achieve your natural swing tempo.
Once you’ve determined your ideal swing speed, work on building rhythm into your swing. Tempo and rhythm go hand in hand. Whatever your swing speed, the various movements of your swing must be blended together to develop a smooth, consistent stroke. The result is rhythm.
Rhythm is the flow or look of your swing, as I’ve described in my golf tips. If you have good rhythm in golf or anything for that matter, you look good doing it. Your swing might not be efficient or effective but you get points for style. Some players who take my golf lessons, for example, look great hitting a ball, but their tempo is off and their swings are ineffective. The biggest problem area as far as rhythm is concerned is the transition period between the backswing and downswing. Although we break these movements down to discuss them in golf instruction sessions; they really are one fluid movement. And they should be treated that way by golfers. Unfortunately, in our efforts to hit it long and far, we speed up the transition period and throw our rhythm and tempo off.
To generate more rhythm in your swing, you first need to relax, especially your hands. If your hands are tight your arms and shoulders will also be tight. Next, you need to start thinking in terms of swinging to a beat. Think of the swing process as a one-and-two motion. Use a swing thought such as “back and through,” “low and slow,” or “turn and turn,” anything that helps you keep the beat.
To help you feel rhythm, try swinging a club with your eyes closed. Feel the weight of the club and sense its speed gradually accelerating from the top of your swing all the way through to a controlled finish. Then try to recreate the same rhythm on the course the next time your play.
Tempo and rhythm are like a horse and carriage, to borrow from the old Sinatra song. You can’t have one without the other. When the two are present, they generate substantial benefits. When they’re not, they wreak havoc with your swing. The key is focusing on fine-tuning them. If you are able to, you’ll find yourself hitting the ball longer, farther, and straighter more consistently—and generating a lower golf handicap.
Jack Moorehouse is the author of the best-selling book “How To Break 80 And Shoot Like The Pros.” He is NOT a golf pro, rather a working man that has helped thousands of golfers from all seven continents lower their handicap immediately. He has a free weekly newsletter with the latest golf tips, golf lessons and golf instruction.