Golf Swing Tempo

Forgotten Fundamental: The Golf Swing Tempo

When you hear the words “swing tempo”, it’s hard not to think of the great Freddy Couples. He is one of those few people who transcends 99.9% of players to have the perfect rhythm to his swing.

Even with all his back injuries, he’s still so smooth. It’s as if the golf gods only gave one player perfect tempo and he’s the one.

While players like Rory, Tiger, and DJ have great tempos, it seems much more aggressive than Freddy. And for most amateurs, they try to replicate those guys without having the right fundamentals to make it happen.

Most amateurs want to swing way too hard so they can hit it long and impress their buddies. (If that’s you, check out our article on swing speed). But the real goal is to create a consistent tempo so you shoot consistently low scores which will impress your buddies way more.

Swing tempo is one of those pieces of the golf swing that separate the pros from the amateurs.

Everyone wants it but few players have it … until now.

In this post, I’ll share with you the exact drills and strategies to create a perfect swing tempo. This should help you hit it way more consistent on the course and consistently lower your scores year round.

What is Swing Tempo?

So what is swing tempo anyways?

Tempo is defined as the elapsed time of your golf swing from backswing to follow-through.

Most amateurs golfers struggle with finding the proper tempo for a variety of reasons. Like I mentioned in the beginning, they think they need to swing much faster than they actually do to generate significant power and distance. Sometimes watching too much golf from the couch can actually make you a bad golfer.

While it’s good to learn from the pros, you can’t try to imitate their swing without the proper fundamentals. And at the level these PGA players are at, most don’t even think about tempo. They have solid fundamentals built in that make it effortless to complete the swing sequence consistently.

But sometimes even pros struggle with tempo too. Usually it’s when they’re making swing changes, have too many swing thoughts, or have a pressure shot. This is why it’s so important to work on finding your consistent tempo for lasting results.

What is the Right Swing Tempo?

So what is the right tempo? Is it Freddy, Tiger, Rory or someone else?

The answer might surprise you.

It’s actually not any one player. The right swing tempo is actually all about getting the perfect tempo of 3:1. Here’s a quick video from the Golf Channel discussing the 3:1 swing tempo in full.

To sum it up, your backswing should take 3X as long as you’re downswing.

So if your backswing takes three seconds, your downswing should take one second. If your backswing takes .6 seconds, your downswing should take .2 seconds.

Studies have found that this is one of thing every great player has in common. This timing creates the perfect rhythm to ensure you’re always accelerating at impact and compressing the ball with power.

This is why so many amateurs screw up timing. They take the club too quickly back, to try and generate power too quickly. Instead, your goal is to build power on the way back to unleash on the way down. Otherwise, you’re decelerating at impact.

It’s important to note that short game tempo works a little differently. You can read all about short game tempo here and learn about putting tempo here.

Here’s how you can develop a better swing tempo.

How to Get Better Swing Tempo

So how do you improve your swing tempo?

Here are some of the most useful tips and drills to help you swing it like Freddy and nail the 3:1 ratio in no time.

Relax at Address

First off, relax when you address the ball. Take a deep breath. Undo the death grip and tension that comes with it.

Tension is a major cause of a hurried swing tempo, especially with amateur golfers. You should be deliberate with all the actions you take prior to taking your stance and setting the club behind the ball.

Also, relaxing and staying loose throughout the round is key. Especially when you’re playing well or competing in an event.

Find the Right Grip Pressure

Next up is checking your grip for signs of tension. Both Tiger and Jack have discussed this in their golf instruction books. They recommend holding the club lightly at address, then firming the grip slightly before you start your backswing.

The goal is to find the amount of grip pressure you need to maintain control of the club without tensing your hands and forearms. And it’s important to note this is different for each club and type of shot.

For example, you want to grip it more with a nasty lie in the rough and lighter in the bunkers. For full shots, you want to have a 5/10 on the grip pressure scales. Otherwise, too much grip pressure can cause you to jerk the club back rather than starting smoothly.

This instantly throws you off and makes it nearly impossible to hit the 3:1 tempo.

Go Smooth on the Way Back

You want a slow, smooth takeaway to set up the proper tempo for the entire swing. Otherwise, it’s impossible to get the 3:1. It’s not to say you shouldn’t take it back “fast” but that means you need to have the swing fundamentals to allow an even faster downswing.

When practicing, make sure to experiment with starting your swing much more slowly than you normally do. At the range, I recommend regularly seeing if that improves your overall tempo.

It’s also important to note that too slow on the backswing isn’t good either. A super slow backswing makes it easy to rush the downswing and come over the top producing the nasty pull cut.

Golf Swing Tempo Drills

Swing Tempo Drills

To help you ingrain this habit, I recommend trying out some of these drills. Remember, the key to making changes in golf or anything is through repetition.

Try and do these consistently to produce a new swing tempo that will help your consistency.

1-2-3-1 Tempo Drill

In this golf channel video, they discuss this super simple but effective swing tempo drill. On the range, count out loud 1-2-3 on the way back and try to count 1 on the way down. You can do this with practice swings to get the feel for it and move on to hitting shots.

Sure, people next to you might think you’re crazy but who cares. Or you can also count more quietly once you get the hang of it. This is also a great drill to use when you’re in a pressure situation.

Because when you’re under the gun, the last thing you want to think about is any mechanical thought. Instead, think about keeping your tempo smooth with the 1-2-3-1 drill.

Lastly, this drill is great for practicing at home by simply extending your arms and putting your hands together. Do it in the mirror to help you see and feel it on a regular basis.

Swing Tempo Drill

Another great drill is from Me and My Golf, here’s the video. This simple drill will help you keep your body and arms connected. Plus, you don’t need to go to the range to start working on it.

  • Step 1: Flex your knees and take a normal address position.
  • Step 2: Cross your arms so your left arm is over your right oblique and right arm is over your left oblique.
  • Step 3: Feel as though you tighten your core which keeps your body and arms connected.
  • Step 4: Practice rotating your body back while holding your obliques. This will make it easy to not overswing or get too much activity with your arms.

Training Aids

These training aids should also help you find the perfect 3:1 swing ratio.

Orange Whip

The Orange Whip is a popular golf gadget that works great with for training your tempo and much more. It’s been voted the #1 teaching and training aid on both the PGA and LPGA tour! We put it on our list of the best golf training aids.

The shaft coordinates the rhythm between your arms, upper body, and lower body. Use this device to swing over and over to develop the perfect tempo and balanced swing to produce consistent shots on the golf course.

Remember, repetition is the key and this device makes it easy.

Plus, it also provides instant feedback. Any wobble in your swing indicates a need to improve tempo and balance.

Click here to read our in-depth Orange Whip Review.

Tour Tempo Timer App

Another way to help you train your tempo is the Tour Tempo Timer app. This app is used by hundreds of thousands of golfers worldwide and helps you train all different parts of your game. Based on the best selling book, this app has different tones for different parts of your game.

It has the perfect 3:1 tone for your long swing and other ones for your short game and also includes focus songs. This is well worth the one-time $25 download as it can help you retrain your rhythm effortlessly.

Tour Tempo Book

If you want to learn more about the perfect swing tempo, make sure to buy the book to learn about the studies done to find the perfect 3:1 tempo.

Read our Tour Tempo review here.

Final Thoughts on Swing Tempo

Hopefully, swing tempo makes a lot more sense after reading this article and you’re ready to start changing yours. Remember, swing tempo is all about finding the perfect 3:1 ratio. Make sure to adapt it to your swing and don’t try to swing like Tiger, Rory or your favorite PGA player.

Use these drills and training aids to constantly repeat the perfect 1-2-3-1 tempo into your game. Even if you don’t change any other aspect of your game, I’m confident this will help you hit it more consistently and set yourself up to shoot lower scores.

5 thoughts on “Forgotten Fundamental: The Golf Swing Tempo”

  1. I know that I need to improve my tempo consistency and this wonderful article and video is very simple and easy to work in during practice and playing. Thank you so much. Can’t wait to get out and try it

  2. Richard Sanford

    Thank you. I struggle with the rush downward swing. I miss the second shot after a great drive. Topping off the fairway. Thinking about tempo should help.

  3. Peter Albertsson

    The the three to one ratio, is useful but they key is balance. Without it consistent repetition and maximum power are not possible.

    A great image to emulate is that of a baseball pitcher. Prior to exploding forward a pitcher is in a perfectly balanced position, then steps and fires.

    The pace and balance in the golf swing is similar, but very few, consistency have that balances wind up, followed by a focused step and release. Find that balanced place, then fire from it.

  4. Played a great round today with the Danny Maude tip of counting one hundred and one on the full swing with one at impact. Worked very well, very consistent ball striking and declutters the mind on the course. Try it,

  5. I found this article because I already had some sense of the importance of tempo. I’ve been working with a simulator that provides this data; though I’ve been uncertain how to apply it.
    Thanks to – for the insightful information and clear explanation.
    I played golf in my teens and gave it up in my 30s, playing only three times in thirty years. Now I’m 60 and trying to get my game back.
    I’ve worked hard on all my fundamentals and know I have a solid, reasonably high-speed, solid swing profile. Yet I continue to miss-strike the ball fat and thin. I know I struggle to keep my head down as well.
    In only a few practice attempts, I’ve been able to find better control and more distance with consistent ball striking by doing nothing more than changing my tempo. Just like the time I had to change my grip, it feels strange. And like the time I had to adjust my hip and shoulder rotation, it feels strange. However, the results are crystal clear.
    My only goal for the season is to solidify my 1-2-3-1 WHACK!
    Hit’em True Comrades…

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