Last week we talked about tempo. This week we’ll talk about rhythm. They’re not the same thing. Tempo is the overall speed of the swing. Rhythm is the temporal subdivision of the swing into its component parts. Two swings can have different overall speeds, but feature the same rhythm.
For years, golf pros told you the rhythm of the golf swing was 2:1 — two parts backswing, one part downswing. This, however, is not correct.
John Novosel came out with a revolutionary book in 2004 called Tour Tempo, in which he pointed out that the rhythm of the golf swing was 3:1. Three counts to the top of the backswing, one count to impact. He based his finding on video analysis of the golf swing of Tour players.
Young-Tae Lim and John W. Chow, in a 2002 study of lumbar spine loads during the golf swing, graphed the phases of the golf swings of five low-handicap college golfers. The time dimension of the swing was normalized to 100, with 0 being the start of takeaway and 100 being the finish. The end of the backswing was centered narrowly around 52, and impact was likewise centered around 68. That’s as close to 3:1 and you could ask for.
While Novosel was right about the 3:1 ratio, he got it all wrong when he created an audio track to listen to alone or to accompany a video of a golfer swinging. The audio track is a 2:1 rhythm. If you count the audio beats, starting with 1 at takeaway, the end of the audio sequence comes at the fourth count. That’s three beats, not four: two beats to the top, one beat to the ball. Right idea, wrong execution.
Let’s try using a tune most of you are familiar with, Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube waltz, to feel the correct 3:1 rhythm. Those of you who are musically inclined can see how this works from the music displayed below. Takeaway starts with the pickup note (and). The next three notes take you to the top of your backswing (1, 2, 3) and the first note of the second measure indicates contact (4).
I included the rest of the musical phrase just to be complete.
If the music notation is no help, or you’ve never heard the piece, I’m sure you have a friend who can whistle it to you or pick it out on a piano. It starts with two repeated notes. The first one signifies takeaway of the club. The next three notes, which ascend in pitch, take you to the top of the backswing. The last of these three notes is repeated, and that second note of the pair is the count for impact.
You can also set a metronome to about 168. When the metronome ticks, count One and begin your swing. You should reach the top of your backswing at the fourth tick and have swung back down to impact at the fifth.
Get used to this rhythm and then hit a ball or two. You might find that good golf just got a whole lot easier.
My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.