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. This summer, he's teaching out of Southpointe Golf Club in Pittsburgh

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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

27 COMMENTS

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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

  4. 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.

  5. “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).

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