Golf Tips - Tempo: Find What Works For You

By Joe Sullivan

I would like to discuss the most overanalyzed, over-hyped, over-taught, over-recommended, over-everything aspect of the golf swing there is, and that is tempo.

Whenever I see an article or book on tempo instruction, I often ask myself, why? That fact remains there is no one perfect tempo, nor should there be. Every player in the world, from the Tour player to the high handicapper, has a different tempo.

Tempo is the most individual aspect of the swing, and should never be altered. It is the glue that holds all of the pieces of your swing together. If you start applying super glue to where you originally had generic school glue, your swing will be thrown out of sync. This will definitely affect your mechanics, and poor shots will result. So the key, in terms of tempo, is keeping it natural, and keeping it consistent, no matter what pace it may be.

But I fear that whatever claims I make are too little and too late. It seems as though the consensus with most people is that a slow tempo is best. Whether the average player has been brainwashed or not into thinking this way is anyone's guess, but this idea of a slow tempo must have come from somewhere.

How many times have you seen a player hit a bad shot and someone say, "Slow it down!" They are not only referring to that player's swing speed, but also to their tempo. This notion to slow it down could potentially be some of the worst advice EVER given.

Now, granted, it certainly depends on what is being referred to. If you tell someone to slow down the spin out of their hips from the top of the swing, then that might be okay. Being too quick with the hips can certainly lead to an over the top move and a wicked slice. However, if you tell someone to slow down the overall tempo and speed of their swing just because they hit a bad shot, then you should think again. If anything, tell that person to swing harder, quicker, and faster than ever!

I mean seriously, how many times does there have to be advice given about slowing down a certain player's tempo? How many times does each of us have to hear this stuff? If it's not "count 1-2-3-4-5 to the top," then it's "feel like you are swinging in a swimming pool." If it's not "think sands through an hour glass," then it's "imagine waves crashing on shore." But no matter what it is, it should never be mentioned.

Could you imagine if Nick Price bought into all of this slow tempo stuff when he was growing up? I'm sure it was mentioned to him quite often to slow down his swing, and I'm sure glad that he didn't listen.

Even right this minute, I am watching a Senior Tour player on ESPN, John Jacobs, who has a super quick tempo. He certainly doesn't look as though he is thinking of "honey dripping off a spoon" as he is striking the ball. What, is he suppose to disqualify himself right this second because he does not have a slow tempo, which seems as though the only way possible one can play good golf? I think not.

Wait! Don't think I am advocated a super-quick tempo for all golfers. That's not the case at all. Look at Steve Pate, who finished in second place today at the Bob Hope. The guy practically takes 10-seconds to hit the shot. Or how about John Huston. He also has quite a slow tempo.

It's just that this entire notion of a slow tempo has been beat to death in the golf world. I think it has adversely affected the average player as well. Their determination to achieve this slow, beautiful, glorious, and rhythmical move has made many of them swing like a total wimp. The swing speed of the average player is about 15-mph slower than that of a Tour pro. I think some of this can be related to this slow tempo obsession. I would love for them to end that way of thinking.

Actually, more than just a "slow tempo," the entire notion of tempo instruction altogether has been beat to death. Believing that you must have a particular tempo to play well is akin to believing that you must like a certain type of food best. It doesn't make sense, because it's different for everybody.

So next time one of your playing partners tries to get you to slow down your tempo, tell him that you are pretty much born with whatever tempo you have, and that there is nothing you can do about it. Tell him tempo is the area of the swing that is the most individual and it must remain that way. Tell him that from the moment you start playing until the moment you stop, you will pretty much have the same tempo. Tell him that when you start messing around with it to say goodnight! And tell him one last thing, that you are going to keep the tempo you were given when you were put together in your mom's belly, and work on making it a consistent as possible. *

Columns ©1999 Joseph K. Sullivan and GolfLink Inc. All rights reserved.


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