What if I told you that your tempo is the sole reason you're hitting poor shots? I think of tempo as the "glue" that bonds a swing into one coherent motion. If you struggle with consistency off the tee or on your approach shots, you might want to check to make sure your tempo is in sync.
Tempo is often misunderstood because it is truly different for everyone! "Good tempo" for one golfer is going to be bad tempo for another! Check out the following videos below of PGA Tour players with different tempos:
Henrik Stenson - Fast Tempo
Hideki Matsuyama - Slow Tempo
We often hear golf instructors preach about finding your tempo, but I haven't found many that are willing to explain it in enough detail to be useful. In this post, I will be taking you through the benefits of having good tempo, and then giving you a few actionable ways to find the tempo that will work for you!
Just a few weeks ago, I was looking at my swing on video, and noticed that it finally looked how I wanted it to look, but I still wasn't hitting the golf shots I wanted to hit! As many of us have probably done, I totally forgot to acknowledge one of the most important components of a good golf swing; tempo. After shooting a few poor rounds, feeling like I had no control of where the ball would go, I went to the range and started hitting balls trying to get that slight pause that I like to have at the top of my swing. After about 20 golf balls, I noticed myself feeling in control of the ball again! I couldn't believe that something so simple was throwing my entire swing off!
Thankfully, I've practiced enough golf that I know what my perfect tempo feels like, but several golfers don't even know what their tempo feels like.
So why should we worry about tempo?
Good tempo helps sequence the moving parts in a swing
As I said, tempo is the "glue" that holds a swing together. If you don't have good tempo, no matter how good your swing looks, it won't produce consistent, quality golf shots. I think that tempo is the single most important thing in creating a good transition into the downswing. For me, if my tempo gets too quick, I have the tendency to jump to my left side prematurely, which causes a steep swing, and the ball goes just about wherever it wants to go. When I have good tempo, I am able to utilize the power of a correct weight shift, and deliver the club to the ball squarely.
Good tempo also helps sequence the impact position. Just with good tempo alone, a golfer can have a terrible golf swing and still "time" it well enough to deliver the club squarely to the ball at impact. Although I don't recommend building a swing that entirely relies on perfect tempo, it is something that you must be aware of, because it can really save a round of golf when you're struggling with the swing.
Good tempo can also help relax/tense the muscles of your body to get into certain positions. For example, when my tempo becomes too quick, my body tenses up, and I tend to get too upright (caused specifically by tension in the right arm). Being too upright throws off my transition, which in turn throws off the rest of the swing.
Good tempo acts as a wonderful swing thought
By focusing on your tempo, you won't be thinking about all the hazards surrounding the green, because it distracts your mind.
The reason that I like using tempo as my swing thought is because it helps me tremendously under pressure. Of course, everyone will have a different tendency under pressure, but one of mine is transitioning too quickly. I will talk more about pressure shots later in this post, and how tempo can improve your ability to perform under pressure.
Good tempo allows you to sync up with your natural rhythms
Everyone has a "set point" when it comes to rhythm. I'm no expert on this topic, but I do know that everyone moves at a different pace in life. Matching your swing to your natural rhythm is crucial to hitting quality golf shots consistently.
To find your natural rhythm, I find it helpful to step away from the golf course for a few minutes. Think about your tendencies in general: Do you take a long time to get ready in the morning? Are you deliberate or hasty when doing work at the office? Do you walk slowly to your golf ball, or do you take a power walk to it? Do your playing partners complain about how slow you are on the greens? What about the music you listen to? Is it upbeat? Slow?
By answering these questions, you will be able to pinpoint what tempo is perfect for you. I am a slow golfer, slow to get up in the morning, and I am extremely deliberate with my work. Naturally, I have a slower tempo.
Good Tempo Helps You Perform Under Pressure
When I say "pressure," I'm referring to any golf shot that gets your heart rate up. Every golfer experiences different types of pressure. Some golfers feel pressure when they have to hit a ball over water in front of thousands of fans, while others feel the same amount of pressure hitting their first tee shot in front of the weekend foursome. It doesn't matter who you are, you've definitely felt pressure during a golf shot before. Finding a good tempo and practicing it can help you hit those pressure shots more effectively. If you are like 99% of golfers, you'll have the tendency of getting too quick under pressure. If you've already got a quick tempo, it will get even quicker under pressure! Next time you have a pressure shot, or a difficult shot that brings you anxiety, focus solely on making a swing with the good tempo that you've (hopefully) practiced countless times on the range.
So now that we know WHY tempo is important and how to find our optimal tempo, I want to show you HOW to practice and ingrain that tempo into your swing.
Use a metronome or music
There are several metronome apps that you can download to your smart phone, but using a standard metronome might not fit the bill for most people. Personally, I have moved away from using metronomes, and started listening to music with a steady quarter note beat that plays around 90 bpm (soft rock usually). The tour average for tempo is around 65 bpm, so I don't try to match the tempo of the music, but it helps keeps my tempo consistent.
If you really want to crack down on your tempo, you can download the Tour Tempo app. It's expensive, but I find it useful for developing a consistent and repeatable tempo.
Put something on the line and experiment with different tempos
I think the best way to find and ingrain your optimal tempo is under pressure. Put some money (that you are willing to lose) on the line, and experiment with slower and quicker tempos. You'll find that there is a certain tempo that will produce the best shots in this competitive environment.
Whenever I'm coming down the stretch in a tournament with a good round on the line, I have to consciously make sure that I keep my long, slow, smooth tempo on every shot.
Check your swing-weights
Since I have a slower tempo, I have swing-weighted my clubs to feel heavier than normal. Currently, I am playing at around a D5 swing-weight with the irons, which is a few points "heavier" than the standard. This allows me to feel that slower tempo that I'm looking for. If you don't understand what swing-weight is, and why it is important, I've written about it here