How important is tempo to the golf swing?
Short answer: very.
In fact, many golf instructors would argue it’s the single most important factor in creating a solid, repeatable swing
Your mechanics might be solid. But if your swing tempo is off, you’re going to struggle for consistency.
So how do you go about improving your tempo?
Let’s find out.
What makes for good tempo in the golf swing?
Let’s clear something up.
Swinging with good tempo does not mean swinging slower. In fact, in many (probably most) cases it could mean speeding up your swing, and in particular speeding up your backswing.
And while there are always going to be outliers (like Sungjae Im’s slow, deliberate backswing), most tour players swing on a ratio of 3:1.
To simplify, if a tour pro’s downswing (transition to impact) takes 0.25 seconds, their backswing takes 0.75 seconds. And yes, they are swinging that fast, even though it might not look like it on TV.
Many amateur golfers on the other hand swing with ratios closer to 4:1, or even 5:1, which makes it hard to create a fluid swinging motion. And that leads to jerky transitions from backswing to downswing that cause a ton of common swing faults.
So really, good tempo is good timing. And to be consistent you’re going to want to shoot for that 3:1 ratio.
It really is that simple.
BTW, if you want to know where the 3:1 ratio comes from, grab a copy of Tour Tempo: Golf’s Last Secret Finally Revealed or watch the intro video below. The data is definitive.
How to improve your tempo
So you know that good tempo is a 3:1 ratio between backswing and downswing (to impact).
How do you go about achieving it?
1. Film your swing to get your current tempo
First things first, you’re going to need to know what your current swing tempo is.
To do that, you’re going to film your swing from down the line, and literally count frames.
Note: to get an accurate count, you’ll need to set your record frame rate to 30fps.
Watch the video back and count the number of frames it takes from the start of your takeaway to the top of your backswing. Then count the number of frames from transition to impact.
Let’s say it takes 50 frames to reach the top of your backswing and 10 frames to reach impact. That’s going to give you a tempo of 50:10, or (primary school math) 5:1.
Which means your backswing is too slow, and for good swing tempo you’re going to need to speed it up.
Of course, on the other hand if your backswing takes 20 frames and your downswing takes 10, then your backswing is too fast and you’ll need to slow it down. But the vast, vast majority of amateur golfers will fit into the first category.
2. Count, or use the tour tempo app to fix your tempo
If you’re old school, you can start fixing your tempo by counting. Count to 3 for the backswing, an “and” for transition, and a “1” for impact.
- Backswing: “1,2,3”
- Transition: “and”
- Impact: “1”
But that’s not a particularly precise method. Although you can re-film yourself and count frames again to see if you’re getting it right/improving.
Note: it’s not a slow count. Your ultimate goal is to get your total swing time (from takeaway to impact) to between 1.2 and 1 second.
You’ll swing along to a series of beeps that (when you match up with them) will get you swinging in perfect tempo.
Here’s a demonstration of the app.
You can up the speed of the beeps as you improve your tempo, to improve your swing speed and get more distance.
3. Use a tempo trainer like lagshot
At the end of the day, a lot of golf is about feel.
Swinging along to the tour tempo app will help you groove your swing. But you really need to develop a feel for proper swing tempo that you can take with you to the course.
Fortunately there are a number of golf training aids that will help you do just that.
Two of our favorites are the Orange Whip and Lagshot.
Both are excellent tempo trainers. But we give the edge to Lagshot as you can actually hit balls with it while grooving your tempo.
Lagshot has a flexible shaft that’s going to force you to swing in good tempo to hit the ball well. In fact, if your tempo is off the club is just going to crash into the ground.
Simple, but incredibly effective. Indeed, the benefits for tempo is one of the main reasons we selected Lagshot as our #1 golf training aid in 2022.
Spend some time with Lagshot on the range (or just hitting whiffle balls in your living room) and you’ll quickly develop the feel for a smooth, consistent tempo in your golf swing.
We picked the Lag Shot as our #1 golf training aid this year. Find out how golfers are using this club to smooth out their tempo and transition, and add distance and accuracy to their game in 2022.
Final note: tempo is not speed
As we’ve already covered, most amateur golfers swing too slow (particularly on the backswing).
But with that being said, tempo is not speed. Tempo is rhythm. And specifically in the case of golf, that rhythm is the ratio between backswing and downswing.
Technically you could have a slow swing that has good tempo, or a fast swing with bad tempo.
So if you’re just built to be a slow swinger, then working towards a slow, smooth swing with a good 3:1 tempo will make you a better, more consistent golfer.
On the other hand, if you’re going all out for speed…
The magic ratios (frames on backswing:downswing) for tour pro swing speeds and tempos are 24:8 and 21:7.
Sounds fast and it is. But if you get there, we’re willing to bet your golf buddies will marvel at your smooth, slow looking tempo as you smoke your driver 300+ yards down the fairway.
Good luck improving your golf swing tempo, and any questions, just drop a comment below.