Tiger Woods and Fred Couples have IDENTICAL swing tempos? It is true! Nearly every professional golfer, male or female, has identical time proportion in his or her swing, a common ratio between takeaway and downswing.
Do not confuse golf swing speed with golf swing tempo. Your golf swing speed is how fast the club is moving at impact. Your golf swing tempo is the pace of your swing from the first movement to impact. When you understand this very thing, you will understand why Greg Norman’s swing looks so much faster than Ernie Els’ swing until you compare the two on the computer. Ernie is a frame faster than Greg from takeaway to impact!
The opinion on tempo in the golf swing is that each person has their own unique, individual tempo. This may seem to be true, but it is very difficult to quantify. What the research does show, though, is that the best players in the world (all with different, unique, core patterns of movement and style) have the same 3:1 ratio.
This means that regardless of swing speed, players take three times as long to get from the start of the backswing to the top of their backswing compared to the time it gets from the start of the forward swing to impact. The start of the swing is defined as the first frame where there is movement of the club head away from the ball. The top of the backswing is defined as the point in the swing where the club head appears still. The start of the downswing is defined as the first frame where the club head starts moving back toward the ball from the top.
The ratio will be the same (3:1), but the amount of elapsed time/frames ratios may be very different from player to player. The three most common elapsed times and frames ratios for touring professionals are 21/7, 24/8, and 27/9. An example of each is Jack Nicklaus at 21/7, Fred Couples at 24/8, and Tiger Woods at 27/9. All with the same 3:1 ratio!
So, how can one tempo test and then tempo train? It may be easier than you think. Play with a cadence counter/metronome with the 3:1 ratio to determine which synchronized tone sounds and feels good to you. Play this over and over again to match your tempo with the “smooth…set…hit” 3:1 ratio. Don’t be surprised at how this may feel “fast” at first. Matching music to your preferred ratio can be helpful for the necessary repetition to make this type of improvement. And, yes…it might be slightly different than 3:1; many amateurs are measured at 3.5:1)
Good tempo can be trained and the results will speak for themselves. As John Novosel says, “golfers could save hours of practice time spent “fixing” swing mechanics if they knew that their swings, however different, obeyed a universal law of tempo”. I could not agree more!