Timing and Tempo Of a Golf Swing

The challenge for many amateurs is to figure out the what’s and how’s of their golf swing. There is so much information floating around in the golf biosphere, it is difficult to ascertain what advice would best fit our game. The general understanding of terms is helpful, but knowing what they really mean is more important. I have worked on my game for 45+ years in the hopes that I find that perfect golf swing for my physical abilities. Low in behold, I was focused on the wrong area, but happen to fall into a swing that works. I am grateful I was able to reach a point where I am comfortable with my swing tempo and timing. Understanding why the what’s and how’s of my swing mechanics, now, will be helpful moving forward.

Trying to determine the difference between timing and tempo was a bit of a challenge. My view of timing was when the different parts of my golf swing would reach certain points of the swing. Tempo was the overall start to finish movement that produced a rhythm where I felt in balance and under control. The trick was always combining these two thoughts into a golf swing that would produce consistent shots. I feel I found the 80% solution for my tempo and timing, but still have a few wrinkles that need ironing out.

The consensus among the experts states that a golf swing with the proper tempo is 3:1. It does not matter how fast this cadence is performed, but does matter that it is developed. By using this ratio, the proper tempo for a golf swing is developed. (Using a wood hybrid or long iron is the basis for the 3:1 ratio) Here is another way of stating this: “What should your rhythm be? My friend Rob Neal, Ph.D., an expert in golf biomechanics, has studied the swings of hundreds of tour players, past and present. He has determined that the best players, no matter their tempos, swing with a ratio of 3-to-1 from start to impact on their full shots. In other words, they take three counts to get to the top of the backswing and one count to the ball. Think: One-two-three—one. The cadence of the counting doesn’t matter. It’s the relationship among the connected parts that makes or breaks the swing.” (Golf Digest)

The article continues to talk about putting and and short iron play: “Even for the short game, the rhythm should be consistent. In putting, the ratio should be 2-to-1: One-two—one. Pitching, chipping and sand shots are somewhere in between. To practice this, just feel the same recurring beat when you hit these shots. By all means, focus on it if your ball-striking slips. And when your buddies say you’re swinging too fast, don’t just tune them out. What they’re probably seeing is that your rhythm is off. That’s worth listening to. — With Roger Schiffman

Okay, so what does this really mean. Well, I found a video that might help clear up any possible confusion:

I looked back at some videos of my swing and found that I do have 3:1 ratio, but my tempo has sped up over the past 10 years. I am not sure why this is, but it sure is different from when I was playing my best golf. It might be something I need to look at as I prepare for my upcoming golf season.

Timing and Tempo are two different things. Timing does not necessarily relate to speed, but where the club is situated during the different phases of the golf swing. The timing of 3:1 is the norm in today’s golf. The tempo (how fast all of the swing phases are executed) can vary greatly. For me, the tempo deals with balance and timing deals with movement. Regardless of how you look at the terms, working on the 3:1 timing within a balanced tempo would be the golf in developing a golf swing that produces low golf scores.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “Timing and Tempo Of a Golf Swing

  1. Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Gary Woodland. These are a few players of note with ratios that don’t match or really come close to that 3 to 1 tour average. Their backswings are slower and more deliberate and that works quite well for them. They still have a very nice tempo through the transition and on. It’s just they take a very long time getting there compared to tour average.

    I’m not saying she’s wrong. I’ve read the same thing about the 3 to 1 ratio. Tour average is good enough for most. But some of the outliers might better suit some. And I believe that the high swing speed specialists are suggesting that the faster the backswing the faster the downswing. Not necessarily at a one to one ratio but faster.

    Science is bringing out lots of great information. And her recommendations are still great for most of us since most of us will fall into that average category. But you can have a smooth tempo with a glacial backswing. And while Bryson’s swing may look a lot more violent than smooth, in slow motion, it looks pretty smooth to me. So whether you go for a faster or a slower than average tempo, the point is to find one that you can easily recreate. One that works for you. You can count. Use a metronome or use some music with a beat to it. Whatever works.

    And there’s all kind of science on the timing of things during the swing. Enough to lead us down a ton of rabbit holes. Especially without access to the equipment needed to gauge ourselves against what we’re looking to accomplish. That doesn’t mean we can’t give a try and getting more out of our swing. It just means we will have to hunt and peck to find crumbs along the way.

    But hey, crumbs aren’t all that bad. lol I’m certainly not minding seeing the draw continue to become easier to hit. I hit a few with big cross breezes tonight. Both with the wind fighting and the wind helping a draw and got the aimed pretty well. And I hit some other specialty type shots with good success. And a couple with less than good success but my wedges saved the day when I did for the most part at least. I won the skins game 5-2-0. So well enough for tonight I’d say. Saturday not so much but I won’t dwell on that. Tonight I did well with most of the shots I tried to make whether they were high, or low, curved right or left or went straight. So I’d say I got my share of crumbs tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      We are on the same page for sure about the tempo being unique to each player. The ratio of 3:1 is, as always, an 80% solution for most amateurs. It provides a great starting point in which players can move forward. Science and golf are fun for sure when mixed together. At this point I see the knowledge about ratio as important as trying to achieve it.

      Cheers Jim


  2. In my own personal game, if my tempo is off, the timing of each of the elements of my swing are negatively impacted. I have observed it countless times with my playing partners regardless of their talent level.

    The most common is when trying to swing too hard and the results are never very good. The transition at the top of the swing gets messed up and an off balance swing results. For consistent results, there needs to be a smooth transition and a controlled downswing leading to solid contact of the ball. I find that trying to swing at my limits May work for a time but is unsustainable as fatigue sets in, both mental and physical. The solution is finding the right tempo that maintains balance even when you are tired.

    Playing vintage clubs over the last few years has been my best swing trainer. It trains you mentally and rewards a smooth tempo. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      As always your sage comments hit the mark. I find that my tempo is very important as well. As I continue to learn about vintage clubs, my game is slowly making a transition to a different tempo. This summer should be great fun as I have my own sticks now.

      Cheers Jim


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