I often hear amateurs talk about tempo and rhythm as if they are one and the same. The failure to distinguish the difference means one struggles to fix any challenges that arise. That’s why I have compiled a list of the 9 best golf tempo drills to help you master your swing.
Like in music, tempo represents the pace of your golf swing, while rhythm refers to the transition from hip and torso rotation to arms and club release. They are not the same, but your tempo impacts your rhythm. When the mechanics of your swing transition fluidly from one stage to the next, you enjoy a consistent golf swing.
In this post, I will prescribe various golf drills that are easy to practice. While some require training aids, you can do most of them with the equipment you have on hand.
(If your tempo is on the level of Bobby Jones or Ernie Els, you may prefer to spend the time researching the 5 different types of golf swings instead.)
1. 1, 2, 3, 1 Drill
The challenge many golfers have is that they swing slowly on their backswing but force the release of their arms, torso, and hips. That causes the hips to clear first and leaves the club lagging behind and swinging for out to in.
Bobby Jones had one of the finest swings in the world of golf, which was made possible by his great tempo. Every element of his swing flowed together without forcing it. Martin Hal from the Golf Channel explains that Jones’ arms accelerated at an average of 34-feet per second, allowing him to generate 113 mph of clubhead speed.
The point is a smooth transition from backswing to downswing through impact should improve your ball striking consistency, accuracy, and distance.
A simple drill to get you started is counting 1, 2, 3, 1 during your swing. According to Hall, this helps you achieve the ideal 3:1 swing ratio. Meaning it should take three times longer to reach the top of your backswing than it does from there to impact:
Set up for your shot, with the ball positioned correctly in your stance and on your backswing count 1, 2, 3. You should be at the top of your swing when you reach three. Then, count one as you lead the golf club to the ball.
The purpose of this tempo drill is to get you into the habit of following the count. If you count to three and your clubhead is not at the top of the backswing, your tempo is either too fast or slow.
2. Slow Swings
On days where your tempo is off and bad shots flow in abundance, it is difficult to identify where your golf game is going wrong. A handy drill to help you achieve a proper tempo is to swing slowly and increase the speed.
You ideally need a launch monitor for this drill to help you determine if your swing speed matches the required rate. Start by taking your standard full swing and see what clubhead speed the device registers. Take three to five additional full swings and check the averages.
Once you know your average full swing speed, the next step is to get out the calculator. Workout what speed is a quarter, half, and three-quarter swing.
Once you have those speeds jotted down, set up and hit five to ten shots at 25%. That will take your mind off the complexities of swing mechanics and allow you to focus on rotation, timing, and ball striking.
Next, ramp up the swing speed to 50%, then 75% until you reach your peak speed. This drill helps you understand how to combine your arms, hips, torso, and club without overthinking your shot. It also helps you achieve a better feel of your tempo.
In addition, it teaches you the importance of leveraging the momentum generated from optimal hip and shoulder rotation.
3. Swoosh Drill
This is a basic instruction taught by Justin Bruton. It only requires your driver. The aerodynamic crown produces a swish sound moments after the low point of your swing. Bruton suggests you tee up your golf ball, step back and take a few practice swings:
The goal is simple, the swoosh noise should occur when your clubhead is in line with the ball. If the swoosh comes before the ball on your downswing, you release your clubhead too early. Conversely, when you hear it after the club has passed the golf ball, you let it go too late.
Take as many practice swings as you need until you are satisfied that the swoosh noise happens when needed.
4. Create Resistance
A problem I struggled with at one point was taking the clubhead too far back. It caused my tempo to unravel on the downswing.
Instead of maintaining the 3:1 backswing to downswing ratio, I was pushing a 3:2. That meant I took double the time to get the clubface from the top of my swing to the ball, causing a loss of distance and accuracy.
I started focusing on posture to control my backswing for an improved path and plane. Whenever I had the chance, I would set up for a shot as I would on the golf course, but without a club in my hand.
The next step is to flex your core muscles making your body feel like it is one, and every component needs to play its part for you to pull off your shot. It also creates tension and promotes optimal hip and shoulder rotation.
Fold your arms, and start your imaginary backswing through impact. You should feel how your lower body, hips, and shoulders worked in sync during the process. Once you understand how great tempos feel, think about this drill during every round of golf, and you will start to shave strokes off your game.
5. Grip Training
So far, I have provided golf swing tempo drills that do not require a training aid. However, a training aid is central to this exercise. The SKLZ Tempo Grip trainer works on three areas of your game. Firstly, it encourages the ideal grip pressure to help you release your clubhead on the downswing.
Secondly, it is a heavy design and requires you to activate your muscles for maximum power at impact. If you do not use your muscles, it leads to less clubhead speed which impacts your distance.
Finally, this device is angled with the end of the stick higher than the grip. That forces you to release the endpoint of the swing stick to get it on plane for impact. Repeating this process will improve your muscle memory to repeat this motion from the first tee to the eighteenth green.
If you are more comfortable using a specific training aid over what you have, look at the SKLZ Tempo Grip here.
SKLZ Golf Tempo & Grip Trainer
This tempo trainer helps improve a golfer’s swing tempo and plane. The training grip provides the correct hand position for the right golf grip, and it has two weight adjustments for iron and wood practice.
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6. Breathe In, Breathe Out
The breathe-in, breathe-out drill is built on the same premise as the 1, 2, 3, 1 exercise I discussed before. It is a simple process. Take a deep breath on your backswing, and exhale on your downswing. That helps a golfer maintain your tempo from your takeaway until impact.
7. The Orange Whip Swing
The Orange Whip training aid is used by two hundred professional golfers. Including PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson. Although it doubles as a warm-up tool, this device trains you to maximize the use of your muscles and rotation for optimal distance.
The weight of the training aid prompts you to rely on the momentum from your rotation to deliver consistent clubhead and ball speed. When you swing your standard club on the course or at the driving range, you should have no problem achieving consistency.
8. The Metronome
If counting doesn’t work for you, there is the option of employing a metronome. Get the metronome operating and grab a mid-iron. Listen to the metronome’s speed and use it to guide your swing.
On the first click, commence your takeaway, and on the second one begin your downswing. Repeat this process until it is ingrained in you. In all reality, despite the macho image of a golfer, dancers and musicians should have an easier time conquering the tempo of their swing.
9. Right, Left
The final tip I have for you is a simple approach to ensuring that your weight is in the correct position at the required moment. Now, the steps in this drill are designed for right-handed golfers. That means that the opposite applies to lefties.
Set up with your clubface behind the ball. On your backswing, say right. Follow that up with a left on your downswing. When you say right, your weight should be shifting to your trail or right leg.
Conversely, on your downswing, shift your mass to the front foot. Finally, clear your hips at impact.