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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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Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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