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Why slowing down your golf swing can be a recipe for disaster

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The easiest way to understand the difference between tempo and timing in the golf swing is this: tempo is a preference, timing is a principle. Timing is the process of putting together a sequence of motions that will result in good, solid impact. Tempo a personal preference of how to do that.

Some great players have quick swing tempos, while some have slower swings. The commonality is their timing is perfect. They reach impact correctly time and time again. Most top players have something like a 3:1 ratio of backswing to downswing pace. For many, we see perhaps 0.75 seconds from the start of the swing to the top of the swing, and roughly 0.25 seconds from the top of the swing to impact.

Here’s the key: Top golfers who make quicker backswings do not upset their ratio. We all love to watch the slow, languid swings, such as those of Ernie Els or Fred Couples. While enviable, their tempo doesn’t make their swings any more effective than those of Ricky Fowler or Arnold Palmer, who choose to swing the club more quickly.

Watch Ernie Els

Many golfers who come to me for lessons believe they have to “slow their swing down.” This is usually a recipe for disaster. When a conscious effort is made to “slow it down,” the only thing that usually slows down is the backswing. Then, most golfers make a mad dash into impact. That’s why if you are inclined to swing the club “uptempo,” I often say keep that pace and go at it. I rarely see anyone improve their swing by “slowing it down.”

Watch Rickie Fowler

The things that matter in your swing are the club face, the attack angle and the true swing path. Swing tempo is not a fundamental. Again, it’s a personal choice. That’s why I advise many golfers to forget it, and go with what comes naturally. It would be helpful perhaps to work on your sequencing, but not the overall speed of the swing. Swing as hard as you want as long as you can stay in balance.

My Take

John Jacobs once referred to the golf swing as “two turns and a swish.” After years of working with many different levels of golfers, I still love that description. The upper body turns away in the backswing, the arms swing the club and the lower body turns through the ball coming down. It seems overly simplified, but it is a totally accurate assessment of swinging a golf club.

Remember, you slice the ball because of an open face. Slow it down and all you’ll hit is a slow slice.

For more about me and how I teach, visit www.dennisclarkgolf.com or go to my Facebook Page

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Pingback: Timing Matters: Is a slow backswing more effective? - Golf Slot Machine

  2. Ward Wayne

    Apr 4, 2016 at 5:22 am

    On my first tee shot I am usally out sync and I pull or hook the ball. Then on my next tee shot I always say to myself “slow down” then I push or slice the ball.

    I am always trying to feel the right effort.

  3. Bob Jones

    Apr 3, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Let’s be clear that 3:1 is rhythm and the time it takes to execute that rhythm is tempo. Rhythm is a constant. Tempo is a variable.

  4. William

    Apr 3, 2016 at 1:50 am

    Glad I found this article. I just picked up a Zepp Golf sensor and I find my tempo to be right around 2:1. I’ll try to slow down my backswing or speed up my downswing to get to 3:1 but I never get any good hits when I do that. I guess I just prefer a slower tempo.

    • Knall

      Apr 4, 2016 at 9:14 am

      2:1 would bei considered “fast”, 4:1 would be considered “slow” even though the ratio says really nothing about Tempo. But a longer (in proportion) backswing makes the Swing look slower.

  5. Dennis Clark

    Apr 1, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Another thing to consIder guys when discussing face to true path. It only matters with center contact. The golf ball can be struck even SLIGHTLY toward the toe or heel and “gear effect” takes over. I think in the pre Trackman era we didn’t know how much gear played a part when contact was even a little off. Thx for reading guys. Glad it help. Next time I’ll de discussing hand path to shaft plane influence.

    • CCausey11

      Apr 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Can’t wait for that article Dennis – something I’m working on and look forward to your thoughts. Keep up the great articles – Always a pleasure reading real advise vs. swing theory

  6. tony

    Apr 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    this article is spot on for me. I tried a low and slow take away and while I hit some absolutely mamoth drives on occasion, it was killing my timing and creating early extension issues. I sped up my back swing and emphasized my lower body bump (keeping my quick arms transition the same) and have been striking the ball excellent this season. Timing was much improved but I really had to focus on the bump otherwise my right popped out too quick and caused severe early extension.

    Great article!

    PS. I think Monty also has some resources about syncing up your swing by moving things faster that traditionally go slow (not moving things slower that should go fast). Worth a search in the Academy if you’re so inclined.

  7. Duboscd

    Apr 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    But if slowing down your tempo improves sequencing and timing, that isn’t a bad thing, correct?

    • Dennis Clark

      Apr 1, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      not a bad thing at all…whatever works; Functional as we say

  8. Shane

    Apr 1, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Can anyone locate a burn ward for ol’ Skippy up there?

  9. KJ

    Mar 31, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    I measured the four semi-finalists at the WGC Match Play with a frame counter. All four were 3:1 ratio. Dennis nailed it on this one.

  10. Corey Pavin

    Mar 31, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Careful you don’t want to hit that ball too far now

  11. Dennis clark

    Mar 31, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Yea I’m glad Nick didn’t try to “slow it down”

  12. Dennis Clark

    Mar 31, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    No. you missed my point…you don’t need a “Nice, tuned tempo”…you can play well with a quick one as I said. Just don’t change it 🙂

  13. skip

    Mar 31, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    “Remember, you slice the ball because of an open face…” No you don’t. You slice the ball because your swing path is traveling to the left of where your face is directed at impact. You can still slice the ball with a face that is “closed” (relative to the target line).

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 31, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Do you have a lot of closed faced slicers among your students?

      • devilsadvocate

        Mar 31, 2016 at 10:39 pm

        Its OK you don’t have to respond to them Dennis… Keep up the good work pro

      • John kuczeski

        Apr 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm

        Crickets….LOL….Thanks Dennis!

    • Bob

      Apr 1, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Skip, Yes you do slice the the ball because of an “open face” Open relative to the path of the club. Forget target line, doesn’t mean anything

      • Dennis Clark

        Apr 1, 2016 at 6:58 pm

        Right Bob… target line irrelevant! Open relative to true path. IF…golf ball is struck in center. All bets are off when we hit the heel.

      • Dennis Clark

        Apr 1, 2016 at 7:01 pm

        Yep

    • Common Sense

      Apr 1, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      That face you described is still open. The path is all that matters, not this relative “target”. Face open to swing path, slice, every time. Face closed to swing path, hook, every time.

      • Dennis Clark

        Apr 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        Correct Common…Target line irrelevant UNLESS it the same as path. Thx

  14. Sira

    Mar 31, 2016 at 8:21 am

    So Dennis, do you reckon that a phone app that provides sound clues for tempo such as Tour Tempo would work in encouraging a user to swing in a nice, tuned tempo?

    • Brian

      Apr 1, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      Would love to hear your response on this one Dennis! Great article!

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