Swing easy as fast as you can: Improve your golf swing tempo

Swing easy as fast as you can: Improve your golf swing tempo
By Deb Vangellow, LPGA Master Professional

Tiger Woods and Fred Couples have IDENTICAL swing tempo? It is true! Nearly every professional golfer, male and female, has identical time proportion in his or her swing, a common ratio between takeaway and downswing.

Do not confuse golf swing speed with golf swing tempo. Your golf swing speed is how fast the club is moving at impact. Your golf swing tempo is the pace of your swing from the first movement to impact. When you understand this very thing, you will understand why Greg Norman's swing looks so much faster than Ernie Els' swing until you compare the two on the computer. Ernie is a frame faster than Greg from takeway to impact!

The opinion on tempo in the golf swing is that each person has their own unique, individual tempo. This may be seem to be true but it is very difficult to quantify. What the research (thank you John Novosel!) does show, however, is that the best players in the world (all with different, unique, core patterns of movement and style) have the same 3:1 ratio.

This means that regardless of swing speed (Tiger Woods' 8 iron swing takes 1.2 seconds from takeaway to impact and is the same as Jan Stephenson's driver swing), players take three times as long to get from the start of the backswing to the top of their backswing compared to the time it gets from the start of the forward swing to impact. The start of the swing is defined as the first frame where there is movement of the clubhead away from the ball. The top of the backswing is defined as the point in the swing where the clubhead appears still. The start of the downswing is defined as the first frame where the clubhead starts moving back toward the ball from the top.

The ratio will be the same (3:1), but the amount of elapsed time/frames ratios may be very different from player to player. The three most common elapsed times and frames ratios for touring professionals are 21/7, 24/8, and 27/9. An example of each is Jack Nicklaus at 21/7, Fred Couples at 24/8, and Tiger Woods at 27/9. All with the same 3:1 ratio!

So, how can one tempo test and then tempo train? It may be easier than you think. Play with a cadence counter/metronome with the 3:1 ratio to determine which synchronized tone sounds and feels good to you. Play this over and over again to match your tempo with the "smooth…set…hit" 3:1 ratio. Don't be surprised at how this may feel "fast" at first. Matching music to your preferred ratio (and yes…it might be slightly different than 3:1..many amateurs are measured at 3.5:1) can be helpful for the necessary repetition to make this type of improvement.

Good tempo can be trained and the results will speak for themselves. As John Novosel says, "golfers could save hours of practice time spent "fixing" swing mechanics if they knew that their swings, however different, obeyed a universal law of tempo". I could not agree more!

LPGA Master Professional Deb Vangellow is the Director of Instruction at Sweetwater Country Club in Houston, Texas. She is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, an LPGA and Golf Digest Woman "Top 50" Teacher, a Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine "Top Regional Teacher", a US KIDS GOLF "Top 50 Kids Teacher", a GRAA "Top Growth Of The Game Professional", and was continually featured in the now retired Golf For Women Magazine as a "Top 50" teacher. Deb serves as the National Vice President of the LPGA Teaching And Club Professionals and is a longtime lead instructor in the LPGA Global Education Program.  An educator/coach who offers wellness based developmental programming integrated into her "student centered" philosophy, Deb can be reached at 281-980-4100 X296 or online at www.debvangellowgolf.com.

Topics: Teaching and Club Professionals

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