In golf, tempo is everything. Tempo helps golfers of all skill levels maintain consistent swing paths, swing speeds and impact with the golf ball. But achieving great tempo throughout the golf swing — given the golf swing’s many variables and room for error — is much easier said than done.
Fortunately, the secret to achieving proper tempo throughout the golf swing has been uncovered. In fact, golfers of all skill levels can fix their tempo issues with one technique or methodology.
In 2004, the book “Tour Tempo” outlined research done by author John Novosel that said all tour professionals operate on a 3-to-1 tempo ratio. This means that the swings of the world’s best golfers featured a backswing was three times as long as the downswing.
That’s right, the secret to fixing tempo issues in your golf swing come down to cold, hard science rather than mechanical changes or improvements.
Behind the theory outlined in the book is the realization and general acceptance that no two golf swings are the same. And, this is an important piece of information for the amateur golfer hoping to improve his or her swing and overall performance.
While conducting his research to prove the 3-to-1 golf swing tempo theory, Novosel compared the swings of many golfers — including PGA Tour greats like Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. Despite the many differences seen in the swings of those players — both to the naked eye and under a more scrutinized examination — the tempo remained the same throughout: 3-to-1.
Uncovering this crucial reality means that not only is the 3-to-1 tempo ratio vital to your golf swing and performance, but it shows that it’s attainable, too. The proper tempo ratio isn’t limited to any sort of swing speed, which means golfers of all skill levels, strength, age, gender and location can begin implementing it into their swings immediately.
Many PGA teaching professionals and swing instructors have fully-aligned with Novosel’s findings. In fact, Andrew Rice, one of the top teaching PGA professionals in the game, is a champion of the 3-to-1 swing tempo ratio.
On his blog, Rice noted that in an attempt to limit room for error, amateur golfers slow their swings down too often and ultimately harm their chances of making a good swing.
“When a golfer feels quick the first thing they do is try to ‘slow down’.. .and in an attempt to get some rhythm in the swing they often go overboard and end up slowing everything down a little too much… Far too many of golfers I teach take well over a second to complete just the backswing.”
While it’s still not recommended for all amateur players to look to speed up their swings, Rice points out that many golfers he instructs slow their swings down so much that it takes more than one second to complete the backswing — which leads towards poor tempo.
To combat the urge to “slow things down” and improve tempo, Rice suggests five tips and tricks:
1. One step at a time
“Don’t try to speed up your backswing too quickly,” Rice says. Instead, incrementally get quicker through the backswing in order to maintain balance, and ultimately, a proper tempo.
2. Create speed with your wrists and arms
“The body should not feel hurried,” he says. “The wrists and arms will create much of the necessary increase in speed.”
3. Get ahead
Rice suggests trying a few shots with the clubhead starting two or three feet ahead of the ball before beginning the backswing. “This gives the club a moving start and gradually increases the pace,” he said.
4. Remember this key fact
“Rhythm does not have to be slow.”
5. Patience is a virtue
“Stay patient and gradually build up to [proper tempo],” he said. He reminds all golfers to combat slow swing speed and poor tempo by building speed on the downswing starting from the transition.
— Ben Larsen