Golf Digest Logo Welcome to Tempo Town

The secret to silky smooth tempo? Experts reveal 3 keys

1144264050

PGA TOUR Archive

This article originally appeared in the Golf IQ newsletter. To subscribe to that and more, join the Golf Digest+ community right here.

There’s no better place to be as a golfer than Tempo Town USA.

It’s the place where the swings are smooth, and the power feels effortless. Diving into the technical minutia of the golf swing can often leave golfers feeling lost and confused. But everyone can relate to a golf swing with good rhythm. It is, in many ways, the one thing we can all appreciate.

Fred Couples remains the longtime Mayor of Tempo Town, but in recent weeks we’ve seen many of its smooth-swinging citizens pop into contention in various places: Luke List came close to a victory at Riviera; the powerful Jake Knapp won in Mexico; while Max Homa and Rose Zhang contested under the lights at The Match.

Looking to book your own ticket to Tempo Town USA? Here’s a few tips.

1. Get the club moving

Nobody would deny that Ben Hogan had a beautiful, flowing swing. A longtime resident of Tempo Town. He’d often say that he tried to take the club away “low and slow,” and many golfers adopted their advice for themselves. But look at his backswing. It doesn’t look all that slow to me, yet it’s still smooth and rhythmic.

The point here is that many coaches will tell you that a smooth swing doesn’t mean a slow swing.

As Dr. Young-Hoo Kwon, a noted biomechanics professor at Texas Woman’s University who studies golf, explains: the fast, “active” backswing will engage more muscles in your body that will create a smoother energy transfer from backswing to downswing. Swinging a rope back-and-forth can really help create this smooth and powerful “flow.”

“With the slow backswing you can introduce all sorts of problems, by simply making the backswing fast, we can eliminate a lot of them.” Dr. Kwon says. “In a sense you cannot go too fast.”

One of Dr. Kwon’s favorite golf swing tempos? Vijay Singh, for exactly that reason. An up-tempo backswing, then a smooth recoil into the ball.

Golf Digest No. 2-ranked teacher in Tennessee, Jeff Smith, agrees.

“A lot of golfers can gain easy speed, and improve their kinematic sequence, with a faster backswing,” Smith says.

Up the pace of your backswing, and it could land your swing inside the golden 3-to-1 ratio outlined in John Novosel’s popular book Tour Tempo, which found many of the best players tend to have a downswing that is three times faster than the backswing, and no slower.

2. “Levitate” at the top

Golf Digest No. 1-ranked teacher Mark Blackburn is the longtime coach to Tempo Town resident Max Homa. I asked Mark what the rest of us can learn from Max’s tempo, and he provided a brilliant visual.

“We work on a slight levitation at the top of the backswing,” Blackburn says. “He feels like he can catch the club in transition to then turn aggressively. That turns into silky smooth speed.”

That idea of not forcing a delay but waiting for the best moment to swing aggressively through is one that Couples says makes his golf swing look “effortless,” as he explained to Golf Digest:

“The first thing I do is make a big shoulder turn...Once I get the shoulder turn back, I don’t need to think about the change of direction [on the downswing],” Couples says. “After I clear my left hip, there’s a point where I think about releasing the club down the line.”

3. Constant acceleration

Finally, you’ll often hear golfers with nice tempo explain that they feel like their golf swing is constantly gaining speed. Like a car accelerating down a track, or as Luke List told me: Feeling like he’s “pulling a bow and arrow” on his backswing.

Again, no sudden changes in speed. But continuous acceleration, as Golf Digest No. 9-ranked coach Dana Dalquist explains of Knapp’s golf swing.

“I think it’s the timing of it that appeals to people,” he says. “It's not ballistic. It’s long speed. His rev-up is smooth, and he gives his club a lot of time to rev up. That longer pattern can work well for many players.”

Something to aspire to, and with a bit of practice, perhaps enough to book us our own trip to Tempo Town.