Golf Swing Tempo: How to Swing Like the Pros
Not all golf advice is created equal.
Believe it or not, some classic pieces of golf advice might actually be hurting your golf game. One of those golf lessons that I still hear a lot on the driving range is “low and slow” on the backswing. This refers to taking the club back slowly to generate power and keep it low to the ground.
I’m here to tell you that is one of the worst pieces of advice ever and is likely holding you back from your true potential. I heard this tip over and over in my early golf days but once I switched it as an adult started hitting it longer and better than ever.
If you want to master your golf swing tempo and improve your ball striking dramatically, keep reading.
Golf Swing Tempo
Before getting into why “low and slow” is awful advice for the average golfer, let’s talk about the perfect golf swing tempo. When a lot of golfers think of tempo it’s easy to think of players like Fred Couples, David Duval, or Annika Sorenstam. All of them swing the club with ease and generate effortless power.
While players like Bryson DeChambeau or Tiger Woods in his prime seemed to lash at the ball like a long drive competitor. But whether you realize it or not, all of these players (and all elite ball strikers) have the same tempo.
You might be thinking, no way… Tiger is way faster than Fred Couples. And you’re right, in terms of total time for the swing to go from takeaway to impact is quicker. But each of their tempos is the same – let me explain.
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What is a 3:1 Tempo? Is it a Good Tempo?
If you watch top golfers on TV or YouTube, it’s easy to see they all “swing their swing.” Tiger Woods has a very different swing from John Rahm who has a different swing from Jordan Speith. But if you watch closely (and get out a stopwatch) you’ll learn they all have one thing in common – tempo.
While their swing speeds are different, each has a synced up 3:1 tempo.
Meaning, their backswing takes 3X as long as their downswing. The backswing is where the speed is generated and the downswing is where it’s unleashed in a split second.
But if you compare the everyday golfer to a Tour pro, you’ll notice that they swing significantly slower. While the best players in the world swing incredibly fast and their swing happens in the blink of an eye.
So, what swing tempo should you have?
Most Golfers Need to Swing Faster
The biggest problem that is holding the everyday golfer back from hitting it longer is a swing that is too slow. As John Garrity wrote in the book, Tour Tempo: “The great golfers have always swung more quickly and aggressively than middle and high handicappers.
If you don’t believe me, take a stopwatch and time a typical tour player’s swing from takeaway to impact. The elapsed time will be between .93 seconds and 1.20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to flip a pancake.”
He later said in the book, “You’ll find that these nonprofessionals take anywhere from 1.3 seconds to a full 3.0 seconds to send the ball on its way.”
This is why low and slow is awful golf advice.
The slower you take the club back on your backswing, the harder it is to generate power. While there’s a lot you can learn from the best ball strikers in the world, I’d argue that mimicking their tempo is the biggest lesson!
Think about this example for easy math… if your backswing takes three seconds, then your downswing would take one swing with perfect 3:1 tempo. That means you’d have a four-second swing, while the best golfers swing in about a second.
While most golfers don’t have that slow of a swing, hopefully you get the point. A slow, deliberate backswing isn’t the way to go.
Instead, you want to take the club back faster so your swing can happen quicker and reap the benefits. If you want to hit longer than you ever thought possible, speeding up your tempo is the key to success.
Let’s get into some of the best tips to improve tempo and rhythm in your golf swing.
Let the Transition Happen
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does my transition feel rushed?”
This issue plagued me for a long time in my quest to become a scratch golfer. During a lesson I told my coach I feel like I’m always “quick” on the downswing and it led to inconsistent ball striking.
His advice was simple, “Swing faster on your backswing.”
At that time, my old “low and slow” advice was deeply ingrained in my subconscious as it played on repeat every time I swung the golf club. So we experimented with different timing on the backswing and sure enough, I didn’t feel “quick” when I had a faster backswing.
The reason I felt “quick” in transition was because I was so slow on the backswing, I tried to jump at the ball. Since I was trying to go from super slow to superfast, it inevitably led to bad timing and rhythm.
This might be the issue with you too.
If you feel like you’re quick (which golfers almost always refer to at the top of their swing), speed up your backswing. At the driving range, experiment with different backswing speeds to see how it impacts your tempo, ball striking, and distance.
Retrain Your Mind
You might be thinking, “Okay, I get it… it makes sense, I need to speed up my tempo.”
But you might wonder, how can I actually feel the change? It’s a way to know you need to change something in your swing but not always easy to feel, especially without a golf coach.
The best resource I’ve used to not only speed up your swing but also create a perfect 3-1 tempo is the Tour Tempo app. You can download it on your phone and it’s worth the small one-time fee. Once you download the app, the tracks can help retrain your mind and groove a faster swing with better tempo.
Inside the app, there are two sections; long game and short game tempo timing (more on short game tempo in the next section). Then, you go to the “tones” section where it’ll train your mind to have a better tempo while hitting golf balls.
As the app said, “Tones are provided for each of the following frame ratios of Tour Tempo – 18/6, 21/7, 24/8 & 27/9. The Tour Tempo Tones have a clear purpose. They establish the intrinsic tempo of the golf swing in your subconscious mind. Once this is accomplished, you will not have to think about tempo while playing.”
This is why I’m such a big fan of the app – it reprograms your motor patterns in the mind to swing more consistently. This is hard to sometimes feel on your own but the tones guide you throughout the swing accordingly. It might take a few swings to get used too but can have a huge impact on your golf game in the long run.
Other Golf Swing Tempo Tips
Want more tips to improve your tempo in the full swing? Check out three more quick tips below:
- Relax at address. It’s hard to swing with a good tempo if you’re tense and nervous at the address position. Make sure to take a deep breath before walking into the shot and keeping your arms relaxed. Read more about golf swing basics here.
- Change your grip pressure. To create a smooth, powerful swing you need light-moderate grip pressure. Then, make sure to maintain this pressure throughout the swing to avoid any extra tension.
- Check your follow through. Lastly make sure to see if you’re off balance or can hold your finish at the end of your swing. This is a good checkpoint to see if your tempo might be off.
Short Game Swing Tempo (2:1)
While your full golf swing should have a 3-1 tempo, you actually need faster tempo with short game shots. So many golfers try to have the same tempo for all length shots and it ruins their performance around the greens.
The perfect tempo for short game shots is 2:1.
Since you aren’t taking a full swing and only hitting it 10 feet – 30 yards, you need a faster tempo. Luckily, when you download the Tour Tempo app it has a short game section to help you master your chipping/pitching tempo too.
If you choose not to download the app, try to experiment with faster timing on short game shots to see how it impacts performance. It should lead to more crisp shots that react more consistently on the greens (and hopefully lead to more up and downs).
Related: Short Game Tips
Top Questions About Tempo in Golf
Do you have extra questions about tempo to better understand the right timing for your swing? If so, keep reading to learn more now and start swinging more consistently.
What is the ideal golf swing tempo? What is a 3 to 1 tempo in golf?
The ideal tempo is a 3-1 swing speed.
This means your backswing takes three times as long as your downswing. This was discovered and discussed thoroughly in the book, Tour Tempo. It was expanded upon inside the app with the same name to retrain golfers’ minds to improve tempo.
What is Tiger Woods swing tempo?
Tiger Wood has a 3-1 tempo like all elite ball strikers. While he has a faster backswing than a lot of players (especially when he was younger) he has amazing rhythm and balance throughout the swing.
Related: How to Increase Swing Speed
What is a 2 to 1 tempo in golf?
A 2 to 1 tempo in golf means the backswing takes twice as much time as the downswing. A 2-1 tempo isn’t good for a full swing but is ideal for chipping, pitching, and sand shots.
In the app, Tour Tempo, you can train your mind to speed up-tempo for chips/pitches and master your short game.
What is considered a fast swing tempo?
A fast swing tempo can mean two things. First, it might mean a player has a backswing that is too short and leads to a 2:1 tempo (which is ideal for short game, not full swing).
But other golfers might say “fast tempo” in relation to speed of swing. As mentioned above, professional golfers swing the club in about one second compared to everyday golfers who take 1.5-4 seconds for each swing.
Remember, good tempo doesn’t mean you need a slow, deliberate swing.
If you watch your favorite golfers on TV or YouTube, you’ll notice they swing fast! They swing significantly faster than everyday golfers (as documented in the book, Tour Tempo) and it’s no surprise they’re 10X better than most golfers.
While there are a lot of ways to swing the golf club (grip, setup, length of backswing, etc.), they all have one thing in common – tempo. When you can develop a 3-1 tempo in your swing it can have a huge impact on total distance and ball striking.
The key for most golfers is to likely speed up your tempo as most golfers are too slow. This makes it hard to generate enough clubhead speed, which leads to shorter distances, and ultimately a harder game. Use the tips above to speed up your tempo and master the timing to hit it better than ever.
Finally, if you want more information make sure to buy the book, Tour Tempo. It’s a great book that provides countless examples of why tempo matters and more tips to improve it.
Do you focus on tempo in practice?
Let us know in the comments below.