Find your Golf Swing Tempo

Find your Golf Swing Tempo

This is something so simple which I have seen great success with. All you need is a smartphone and some (optional) earphones.

Tempo is understatedly important in a golf swing. I have seen it create not only better shot performances, but also create massive improvements in technique via self-organization principles; things such as improved pressure shifts, more ‘stable’ body positions, improved kinematic sequencing etc.

In this sense, tempo refers to the BPM (beat per minute) of the swing. I like to time from the start of the swing until club and ball impact. The reason I suggested that you get a smartphone and earphones is so that you can download one of the free metronome apps available, plug in your earphones, set it to a certain BPM and then practice away, following some of the tips below.

 

Speed is not tempo

The below definition of Tempo is from Wikipedia

The tempo of the piece is the speed or frequency of the tactus, a measure of how quickly the beat flows. This is often measured in ‘beats per minute’.

However, it is important not to confuse the BPM of the swing with the clubhead speed.

For example, Ernie Els (in his peak) had a clubhead speed very similar to Tiger Woods’, however, their swing tempo was slightly different.

Also, you could have a player with a very similar tempo for both full swing and lag putts, yet the clubhead speed of both is obviously very different.

 

I see slow people

The vast majority of golfers I see swing at incredibly slow tempos.

snail golf

While almost all the professional golfers swing at tempos between 60 and 75BPM, I have measured many amateurs who swing less than 40BPM. It’s painful.

When you swing this slow, you allow your body to make a load of strange movements and even put yourself out of dynamic balance. The club movements can be awkward and contrived because you are no longer swinging the club, but moving it through positions.

This is largely a result of two reasons

  • People being overly mechanical and positional
  • People telling each other to ‘slow down’.

When I get a player to swing at a quicker tempo, we almost always see instant improvements in dynamics. Head movement becomes less dramatic (even though they are not forcing their head to stay still), club plane improves, they use the ground better with their lower body, the transition sequence of the body gets better etc.

 

Copying the pros

I am known for telling people to quit trying to copy the pros. This is largely due to an influx of pupils trying to get into positions that their bodies just aren’t designed for, or they are adding pieces to the swing which don’t match their current mechanics. But this is one area where I think people should at least explore.

 

How to do it

  1. Download a free metronome app for your smartphone
  2. Get your smartphone hooked up to your earphones and turn the metronome app on
  3. Set it to around 65-70 BPM at first
  4. Swing back on one beep, strike the ball on the next

 

Differential practice

This could also be a form of differential practice – you may want to explore extremes  of both ends of the tempo spectrum.

Make some swings which are much slower than your normal tempo, and then put some on 80BPM or more and try to keep up with it. Eventually, settle on a tempo you perform best with – but keep trying to push yourself into that 60-75BPM range. I tend to see the best movement patterns in those ranges, even if you are initially uncomfortable with this tempo.

But, ultimately, you don’t want to use a tempo a pro uses if you perform poorly with it. Just understand that this may change as you practice tempo range of 60-75BPM

 

Focus of attention

I have found lots of players perform best with tempo as their attentional focus.

Often, thinking about the tempo of the swing can alleviate over-thinking of mechanics and let you focus on a more broad and generalized part of the movement. It can also be a place where you can focus your attention on which may limit the pressure of a situation. If you are coming down the stretch and your mind is racing, it can often be nice to have this singular focus to lock in on. It can almost be meditative.

I find players tend to get more Zone-like experiences when they have

  • Less thought/singular, simple though processes
  • Consistent thoughts
  • Rhythms

Focusing on the BPM of the swing can be a way of achieving all the above. There is even quite a body of scientific research showing that neutral focuses, such as this, can help experienced players become more consistent and pressure resistant.

 

If you want to learn more about differential practice, tempo, routines, training for performance, focus of attention (and much much more), click below to find out about “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers”, available on amazon.

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Cliff notes

  • Most people are swinging at a tempo which allows them to create inefficient movement patterns and lose all dynamic stability and sequencing
  • Speeding up your tempo to within the ranges of a typical tour player can create a lot of positive movement patterns
  • Use a metronome to find out the swing tempo you perform best with
  • Take that thought process out on the course with you

11 Comments

  • Ralph

    I am in Australia and would like to buy your book but it is not available through amazon.com.au. Ordering through the US or UK sites means the book with postage ends up costing about $75 aud. Why isn’t it available through amazons Australian site?
    Cheers Ralph

    • admin

      Hi Ralph, I am not sure to be exact why amazon are not offering it on their Australian site. Perhaps try through the createspace site here https://www.createspace.com/5280712

      Anyone with similar issues can do this, and use code GXP7EB7H for $5 off. Hope that helps

      Adam Young

  • Nick Barr

    Hi Adam – I recently read about the tempo golden ratio of 3:1 i.e. the back swing should be 3 times as long as the downswing. When I use the metronome at 60BPM, the backswing and the downswing are the same. Please could you provide some guidance?
    Cheers Nick

    • admin

      They are measuring different things.
      The 3:1 is measuring the ratio between start to top, and top to impact.
      The metronome measures the beat purely from start to impact. I have players who do both measurements, although I only use the metronome BPM personally.
      Hope that helps

  • Mark

    I know this is an old post but is your set BPM the same for every club in your bag? Like 6-iron and wedge and driver…etc.

    Also can you do drills in the book i.e.. Divot Depth while listening to a certain BPM? or better to do separately.

    • admin

      Good question Mark. I set all my clubs, even putter, on similar tempos, but I have a few speciality shots which I change it for. You can test which tempo produces the best performances for you, and it can be part of your performance testing (in the book). I would avoid thinking too much about other things when working on tempo – try to separate them into different phases of your training.

      • Dennis

        Hi there, I tested something similar with my swing on the range but used a different rhythm pattern (start on 1 and impact on 3). I noticed, that it help my to use a slower bpm for the driver than for my irons but it don’t know if this does make any sense.

  • Barry Hurst

    Hi Adam.. like previous posts, I get it’s an oldish post, but the problem of understanding everyone’s explanations is still with me. Can you clarify your thoughts on the optimum bpm metronome speed using a ratio timing of 3 / 1, or 1,2,3,4.
    With 1 at takeaway, 2 mid backswing, 3 top of backswing & 4 being impact.
    I hope this makes sense, only I’m struggling to set my bpm as if I set the metronome at say 70, I lose my ratio position timing.
    It’s seems I can only get my head round it if I use a 4 beat ratio but I’m struggling to align that with a relevant bpm speed.
    I know you prefer bpm, but I seem lose tempo just focusing on start / finish.
    Really can’t wait for your response, nearly there deciding on being another disciple!!
    Regards
    Barry

    • admin

      HI Barry, – for me it’s more about start to impact bpm. I don’t like to dabble in breaking it down more than that. When you get too analytical about tempo, it seems to dissolve the very purpose of it – to stop thinking so much about mechanics and just do something rhythmical and consistent.

  • Brandon Horvath

    Adam- love the post! To help those struggling with the 3:1 vs BPM idea, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying set a BPM, say, 70 BPM. So, the whole swing would take place in the 0.857 secs between beeps. Thus- a 3:1 ratio with a total swing time would mean a backswing of 0.643 secs, and a downswing time of 0.214 secs. If one wanted to practice that backswing time- one could set metronome to a BPM that is 0.643 secs interval. (~93 BPM). Hope that helps! But I agree- most of us will drop into a pretty natural 3:1 or thereabouts ratio, just practicing the total time.

  • JR THOMAS

    … one issue to consider is joint size and strength. I’m not an engineer, but I would imagine that faster tempos place greater loads on joints, such as the wrists, elbows and shoulders. While reasonably athletic, I have very small wrists. For me personally I’ve found that a slower tempo with more gradual acceleration allows me to generate sufficient clubhead speed while not overloading my wrists and going “off the rails.” Just one player’s experience.

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