What do you work on at the range? If you’re like most golfers, you work on the game’s basics—grip, ball position, alignment, posture, and so on. And why not? Mastering the basics mentioned above helps cut you strokes from your golf handicap.
By working exclusively on these basics, however, you may be failing to work on what some experts feel is the swing’s most critical swing element: tempo. As a matter of fact, swing tempo is probably among the most overlooked basics in the game, if not the most overlooked.
As a result, tempo is seldom taught or practiced in golf instruction sessions. That’s because many instructors think of it as a refinement, not a tried and true swing basic. It’s something you develop only after you’ve mastered the basics. The truth is that mastering tempo can take your game to the next level.
Swing Tempo Varies
Traditional wisdom says that swing tempo varies from golfer to golfer. Some players’ tempos are fast. Other players’ tempos are slow. Traditional wisdom also says that we should stick to our own personal tempos. If we play fast, our swing tempo should be fast. If we play slow, then our tempo should be slow. While that’s true, it’s not the whole story of swing tempo.
Independent research at the Yale University Department of Applied Physics conducted by Drs. Robert Grober and Jack Cholewicki indicates that while there’s no standard time for swing tempo, good swings tend to time out at a 3 to 1 ratio. In other words, with a good swing, it takes golfers three times as long to make their backswings as it does to make their downswings.
Comparing Swing Tempos
For example, many think Ernie Els has the smoothest swing on Tour. And while it seems slow, it’s still pretty quick compared to that of a weekend player’s tempo. It takes Els .80 seconds to go from address to the top of his swing. But it takes .26 seconds to go from the top of his swing to impact. His total swing time is 1.06 seconds. It’s fast, but not too fast.
Sergio Garcia’s tempo numbers, on the other hand, are different. His backswing takes about .70 seconds while his downswing takes .23 seconds. His total time is. 93 seconds. That’s faster than Els, but still in a 3 to 1 ratio. So the swing produces great results.
Below are three golf tips on swing tempo to keep in mind next time you hit the range:
1) Good swings are fast swings: As we tried to show by comparing Ernie Els’ swing with Sergio Garcia’s, swing speeds even among the pros are different. But overall, their swing speeds are fast. Still, not all fast swings are good swings.
The takeaway for weekend golfers is that you want to swing fast, but you also want to stay under control. Swinging faster than you’re capable of causes trouble.
2) Good downswings are three times faster than good backswings: Tour pros—whether on the PGA Tour or the LPGA Tour— have swing ratios of 3 to 1 almost invariably. Being human, they sometimes mistime a swing, but not too often. Ultimately, though, they’re tend to stay at that 3 to 1 ratio.
Weekend golfers need to work hard at making a slow backswing. But it shouldn’t be too slow. Then make a smooth transition—another big key to a successful swing—and accelerate into impact. If you feel yourself getting out of whack timing-wise, slow yourself down a bit in the backswing and focus on making a good transition.
3) Poor golfers tend to have slow swings: This golf tip makes sense because weekend golfers think more about mechanics than the pros when swinging, which slows thinks down. So swings that are too slow sacrifice distance and accuracy.
If you’re a weekend golfer, your swing tempo has a ratio of about 3.8 to 4.1. So work hard at getting that ratio down to 3 to 1 and you’ll hit the ball farther and with more accuracy.
What’s the takeaway here? Next time you go to the range, don’t just work on the mechanics of your swing: grip, posture, alignment, and so on. Work on the intangibles of your swing: rhythm and tempo as well.
Keep in mind that the closer you can get to the 3 to 1 ratio the pros have, the better your chances of having a swing that not only helps you break 80 but also reduces your golf handicap.