Thanks to John Novosel's research in the 2004 book Tour Tempo, we know that virtually all good golf swings are built on a 3-to-1 ratio. No matter how fast or slow these swings are, the backswing takes three times as long as the downswing. To help you groove that 3-to-1 tempo, I've come up with a series of tips you can recite to yourself when you swing. Each of them is three words on the backswing and one word on the downswing to match the 3-to-1 concept. These phrases will not only improve tempo, but help fix common mis-hits, such as slices, fat shots and weak drives.
Do tricks like these really work? Well, when Nick Faldo was the No. 1 player, he used to think Wind it up as he turned back. When Jack Nicklaus was in his prime, he told himself Low and slow to start his swing. The secret is picking the right three-word cue from the following pages. No matter what your backswing cue, think Finish on the way down—that's the best downswing word. And don't stop until your body is facing the target, like former LPGA Tour player Anna Rawson is demonstrating here. So remember, it's three words back, and one word through. That's using tempo for better golf.
IF YOU FIGHT A SLICE, THINK...
DRAG IT BACK
Many slices are caused by a poor backswing. You take the club back too far inside the target line, which prompts you to re-route it to the outside on the downswing, and you cut across the ball with an open clubface. To avoid getting the club into a bad backswing position, think Drag it back. That's if you feel like you control the takeaway with your right hand. Think Push it back if you feel more left-hand oriented at the start of the swing. Either way, this cue will improve your swing path and set your 3-to-1 tempo. Just remember to think Finish as you swing down.
IF YOU DRIVE IT SHORT, THINK...
RELAX THE WRISTS
Keeping your wrists relaxed lets you swing the club like a buggy whip and generate a ton of swing speed into the ball. The wrists should hinge and unhinge, but only for a brief moment as a result of the abrupt change of direction from backswing to downswing. If your wrists aren't soft and supple, you can't create this whip-like action, and you'll leave yards on the table. So think Relax the wrists as you swing the club to the top.
IF YOU HIT IT FAT OR THIN, THINK...
TURN IN PLACE
You want your weight to shift to your back foot on the backswing, but be careful not to let your body sway away from the target. If it does, you'll struggle to shift toward the target on the downswing, and your impact will suffer. Try thinking: Turn in place. Your lower body will stay stable as your upper body winds against it. This will improve your chances of avoiding fats and thins. And don't forget to think Finish coming down. I'll bet you groove that 3-to-1 tempo and start hitting it great.
Rob Akins, ranked No. 1 in Tennessee on Golf Digest's Best Teachers by State, is based at Spring Creek Ranch in Collierville.