One of my least favorite tips to hear one amateur golfer say to another is, “Slow your tempo down.” I have a few issues with this statement. The first is that slowing the tempo won’t give you a perfect golf swing tempo.
The second is that tempo and swing speed are two entirely different things. If you want to understand golf swing tempo, how you can improve it, and the best drills to use, we have you covered.
What is swing tempo?
The swing tempo is not the same as the swing speed. Instead, it is about timing, the time it takes for you to complete a full golf swing. We then use this time to create a ratio of your entire swing, comparing the backswing to the downswing.
For most golfers, it takes about three times as long to take the golf club back as it does to swing through the ball. This swing tempo ratio would be 3:1.
However, golfers are unlikely to consciously consider this 3:1 ratio when playing golf in the real world. Instead, they focus on maintaining a controlled speed, keeping their balance, slowing down their backswing, and accelerating through the ball during the downswing.
When the tempo is off, consistently hitting a golf ball is difficult. Some great golfers, like Masters Champion Jon Rahm, have a fast tempo. Some physical limitations have made his tempo quick. If you compare him to the “big easy” Ernie Els, you can quickly see that both fast and slow tempo work.
Why is good swing tempo important?
The goal of golf is to make solid contact with the ball consistently. A repeatable swing with the proper tempo makes this possible. Golfers with good swing tempo have a smooth and more balanced swing. Each of these things matters when it comes to consistency.
One of the most important things for golfers to understand is this 3:1 concept. The 3: 1 allows you to take a little longer on your backswing, incorporate a smooth takeaway and a perfect transition and then go after the ball. At no point during this 3:1 swing tempo are you supposed to slow down your golf swing.
If you ask Sam Snead and Tiger Woods how they feel about slowing the swing, they’ll say it’s unnecessary. The key is to balance that backswing-to-downswing ratio and still go after the ball with plenty of effort.
How do you get a proper swing tempo?
For the average golfer struggling with swing tempo, here are my tops tips to get the swing tempo of a professional golfer after just a few sessions at the driving range:
Take a video of your current swing and get an idea of what your current tempo is
Some golfers spend dozens of practice sessions trying to get the correct tempo by taking a shorter backswing or slowing down the takeaway to impact timing. These are mistakes that are difficult to recover from.
I like to start by taking a video of the swing; you can use Swing analyzer if you have one. If you have a 2:1 instead of a 3:1 in your swing, you will likely struggle with consistency.
Thousands of golfers have found success starting with a loose golf grip, taking the club back a little slower, and then pausing slightly at the top before starting the downswing.
Does the swing tempo change?
The swing tempo will be different from player to player. We know this 3:1 ratio is ideal, but that does not mean the time spent on the backswing or downswing will be the same. For instance, a player may work on speeding up their swing to gain more distance.
You may see by looking at a video of their swing that their tempo is 30/10 as far as frames in the video are concerned. As swing speed is added and the player learns how to move the club head faster, this number moves to 27/9.
The player still has a 3:1 swing tempo ratio, but it’s faster as they go stronger and add more swing speed.
What’s the difference between swing tempo and rhythm?
There is a lot of confusion about the terms tempo and rhythm, and some golf professionals will use them interchangeably. However, the tempo measures timing and how long it takes to complete the swing. Rhythm is more about the order of your swing and if the different swing pieces are happening at the correct time.
Note: For tempo, we look at this timing and put it into a ratio to help us understand if the tempo is good or bad.
Golfers can have a good tempo but struggle with the rhythm in certain swing areas. For an amateur golfer, rhythm, tempo, timing, and even swing ratio will all feel like they mean the same thing. But if you focus on tempo the way we described it, you will have the understanding you need to improve your golf training.
Drills to improve your tempo
There are plenty of great drills out there to improve your golf tempo. Some of my favorites include:
Slowing it down, feel deliberate in the backswing
Placing a ball behind the ball to keep your takeaway low and slow
Count while you swing on a practice driver swing
Relax the shoulders just before taking the club back
Video your swing, and also video yourself doing the swoosh drill to see how the tempo changes
The swoosh drill is a well-known drill to improve tempo since it encourages golfers to grip the club with the club head, swing through, and listen to the swoosh noise. The swoosh noise is best heard when the backswing takes a little longer than the downswing; this is a training aid using the gear you already have.
It’s interesting to take some swings with your 7 iron in your hand and some while doing the swoosh drill and video them both. Look at your tempo changes; most golfers will be smoother with the swoosh than with the actual swing.
You don’t have to be a golf professional to have a great tempo. In fact, some players on the PGA Tour admire the tempo and rhythm of other golfers. But if you want to hit a great golf shot every time, you need a consistent setup position and golf swing tempo.
Practice drills that help improve tempo but stop listening to your friends telling you to slow down. In fact, you may be able to speed up certain parts of your swing to have a more balanced and smoother tempo. With the way we can incorporate video and data into our golf practice, it’s easier than ever to measure the proper tempo.
I started playing golf at the age of seven. After college, I turned Professional but fell in love with teaching the game of golf. I became a Class A PGA Professional and had hundreds of students from age 3 to 93 come to me for lessons. Teaching and player improvement is my passion.