Category Archives: rhythm and tempo

Three Ways to Hit Better Golf Shots Without Practicing

Do you want to hit better shots without practicing? Well, maybe one small bucket of balls. Here are three things you can do that are guaranteed to improve your ball-striking in just minutes. Promise.

1. Slow down your swing. When you swing too fast and don’t give yourself a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks to strike the ball on the center of the clubface. With your small bucket of balls, slow down your swing until you do. Then speed up gradually until you don’t. Then slow back down again until you do and resolve never to swing faster than that.

Slow.

Down.

If you aren’t hitting well on the course, try slowing down. Many times it’s the quickest fix there is.

2. Put the ball farther back in your stance. Maybe just a half inch. Many golfers play it too far forward because it feels powerful to be cranking into the ball from behind. Ease the ball back until you start making real good contact (you will). Then believe it and keep it there.

3. Aim yourself. Lay an alignment stick on the ground behind you. Step up to the ball and aim yourself at a target downrange. Reach back with your club and pull the stick against your heels. Step away from the ball so you have a down-the-line view of how you set up. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you aimed yourself to the right of the target. Way right. Lefties, you’re likely to be aimed way left.

Move the stick so it is parallel left of the line from the ball to the target and step into your stance with your heels against the stick. That’s what being aimed at your target looks like.

Aim, unfortunately, is not something you can learn once and you have it forever. It takes constant renewal. Go through this process before you hit practice balls at the range or at the course. Every time.

Slow It Down and Hit It Farther

The first week in January in the cold, rainy Northwest is probably the worst time of year to be writing posts for a golf blog. You can’t play, and it’s almost too cold sometimes even to go the range. But I always know if I do something golfy, I’ll get an idea.

So a few days ago the temperature was mild and it wasn’t raining, so I went to the field that is just a block away from my house. It’s the parking lot for the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which is out of view above the picture. My house is out of view about one block below.

I always go there with one ball and one club, hit the ball, go find it, and hit it back again, over and over. It focuses my mind, because if I make mistake and hit a bad shot, it’s a long walk to the ball to have a chance to get it right. So I try very hard not to make mistakes.

The yellow dot on the left is where I start hitting from. The yellow dot on the right is beside a telephone pole which you can see fairly clearly if you enlarge the picture. The pole is 139 yards from the opening spot.

I took my 6-iron that day. My first shot was up in the air, very straight, but got to about the pole. That’s not a long way for a 6-iron, but it happened because I hit the ball about a quarter-inch toward the toe. I did the same thing coming back, and the ball just barely got to the starting spot.

Another shot downrange ended up in about the same place, but this time had I hit it slightly toward the heel.

Fortunately, after three shots, all of them very nice looking and going right where I had aimed them, but all of them way short of where they should have ended up, my mind finally warmed up.

I realized I was swinging too fast, so I thought to myself, “Relax. Slow down your swing to a speed you can control.”

And what do you think happened? Of course! I hit the ball dead on the center of the clubface and it went to the green dot, 14 yards past the starting point.

By doing just those two things, which have nothing to do with swing technique, but everything to do with how you use your mind, I changed my 6-iron from a ~140-yard club to a mid-150s club.

(Want to get 15 more yards with your driver? Hint, hint.)

What I’m saying is the center of the clubface is your best friend. If you overpower your swing you’ll never make its acquaintance.

What I’m not saying is you should slow down your swing to the point of somnambulance. But if slow your swing down to control, or to comfort, or however you want to say want to it, you’ll be getting easy power and easy distance.

Why You Should Slow Down Your Golf Swing

One of the best comments I ever read on a golf forum was to “slow down your swing and learn to live with the extra distance you get.” The reason eluded me until recently.

I got the November 2018 copy of Golf Digest magazine. You know, the magazine that has playing tips every month that work for world-class professionals, but not for you?

Here’s one that did work, and it was from Daniel Berger. He said you’re never going to get the distance you’re due until you learn to hit the ball off the center of the clubface, and he gave us a drill to work on that.

He said to hit balls with your 7-iron (everybody’s favorite club) at 30 percent of your normal swing speed until you start connecting with the center of the clubface consistently. Then move up to 50 percent, then 70 percent.

Thirty percent is pretty slow. If it takes you one second to go from takeaway to impact, that’s now three seconds from takeaway to impact. Pretty slow.

He also mentioned you would be surprised at how far the ball goes even with those slow swings if you hit the ball on the center of the clubface.

That rang true to me, so I went to the driving range I live next door to. Actually it’s not driving range, but the Oregon State Fairgrounds. It has a big field that is used for a parking lot that is 560 yards long and 235 yards wide. I go there every day and hit a few balls.

So I went out there with a 7-iron and a few golf balls to try this tip, swinging at what I felt to be 30 percent. Slowing down that much is harder than it sounds, but I think I got it.

Wow. Triple wow.

Berger is exactly right. Slowing down the swing makes it easy to get centered contact and when you do, the ball flies off the center of the clubface, and goes farther than you could imagine it would.

I’m working up slowly to a faster speed, but only so fast that I can still make contact on the center of the clubface.

In my Living Golf Book, I define tempo as “the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.” Berger’s drill is a fantastic way to find that tempo.

Try it. You’ll find that tempo doesn’t have to be very fast to hit shots that go straight (slowing down your swing takes the tension out of it, which is what introduces many of your swing errors) and to a distance I know you can live with.

Your Ideal Golf Swing Tempo

It’s funny how you can hear the same thing over and over again and it doesn’t make sense until something happens that just makes it click.  That happened to me a few days ago when I was watching Tiger Woods hit a few tee shots.

On every tee, His GOATness took two relatively slow, graceful practice swings—swings any one of us could make.  I would hurt myself if I swung at the ball like he does, but I am right in there with his practice swing.

Which gave me an idea for my game.  Hit the ball with my practice swing.

I know, everyone has heard that a thousand times before, but watching Tiger’s practice swing next to his real swing made me finally comprehend what that advice really means.

His practice swing is slowed way down so he can feel everything.  He’s checking all the marks that he pays attention to along the way.  What those marks are is not important.  That his swing is error-free is important.

Now he is good enough to step on the gas with a ball in front of him and still make an error-free swing.  We are not.

I would suggest that before each shot the recreational golfer take a few unhurried, perfect practice swings, and use THAT SAME SWING for hitting the ball.

That will provide the time to hit all the marks that are important for making a successful swing.

You will not rush yourself through your swing and miss some of your marks, or more importantly, force the club out of position by making your body keep up with itself, and fail to.

Many amateurs have a problem getting their weight onto their left side before impact.  Swinging slower gives them time to do that.

Many amateurs throw the club at the ball from the top.  Swinging slower makes it easier to hold onto their lag and release it naturally at the ball.

Swinging slower makes it easier to swing from start to finish rather than from start to impact.

And so on.

I wrote in my Living Golf Book that your ideal tempo is the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.  For many recreational golfers, that isn’t nearly as fast, or as forceful, as they now swing.

Will you lose distance?  Maybe, at first, but when you have settled into hitting the center of the clubface, that distance will come back AND you will be much straighter.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

The swing you make before you hit the ball is the same swing to hit the ball with.  There should be no, zero, difference between the two.  Hopefully it is an unforced swing that leads to your finest shots time after time.

A Tempo Feeling

When I write about tempo, I make it somewhat technical so you can work it out precisely at the range. But you can’t use technical methods when you play.

So try looking at tempo this way.

Swing at a pace that feels unhurried. Not too slow, though. For sure, the swing is not a horse race, but it’s not a mosey.

A Sunday afternoon, unhurried tempo will work wonders.

Swing Speed

A few days ago, I was on a course which in one spot has the tee boxes for consecutive holes right next to each other. One is a par three, which you play, then walk back to where the next tee is, a par five.

There was a group on the tee of the par five, so when we got the other tee, we waited until they finished teeing off, sitting down on the bench to watch the show.

One guy tees off with a long iron (there’s a pond across the fairway such that if you have even moderate length, you’ll hit into it), takes a vicious swing, and cold tops a 40-yard dribbler. You have never seen so much effort deliver so little result. Well, maybe you have.

Anyway, he says, “I’m going to hit another one.” I think to myself, “Yes. Please. Hit another one.”

So he tees up another one, puts this graceful swing on the ball and just kills it. Beautiful, powerful shot, straight down there.

He picks up his tee and says to his buddies, “You know, it’s amazing how well you hit the ball if you just slow down your swing a little bit.”

Thus endeth the lesson.

Golf Swing Rhythm Illustrated

Here’s one more way of looking at it. Literally.

Swingrhythm

This is Bobby Jones’s swing, with a tracer on the clubhead. The points of the swing rhythm are marked.

1 is the instant of takeaway. 2, 3, and 4 are the backswing, 4 being the end of it. 5 is impact.

Again, it looks like you would have to rush to get back to the ball in one count over the same distance it took you three counts in the backswing.

But you don’t.

Try it.

Advanced Tempo and Rhythm in Golf

This is my third post on rhythm and tempo in a month. Maybe you think I’m obsessing on his subject. I’m not. It‘s that important and it can make such a big change if you get it right.

A month ago, I talked about the meaning of tempo and rhythm, and went into greater detail two weeks ago. Nothing I said in those posts needs to be changed. But there was something I left out. Here it is now.

This 3:1 rhythm looks like a mechanical formula, but it is anything but that. There is a personal dimension to this rhythm, which you must figure out for yourself in order to make it work for you.

Let me give you an example from music, where the notion of rhythm comes from.

Most of you have heard classical, orchestral music. Most of you as well have heard jazz. The rules of rhythm are the same for each genre. The expression of rhythm is quite different in each, though. One swings, the other doesn’t.

To play jazz in an orchestral style would fail. So would trying to play orchestral music in a jazz idiom.

We all have our own feeling for rhythm built into the way we think and thus the way we move.

For example, some people perform their backswing in strict time, at a steady pace from start to finish. Other people might accelerate a bit as the backswing develops.

Some people might move from the backswing to the downswing without pause. Others would allow the backswing to come to a brief rest before it falls into the downswing.

In other words, the 3:1 rhythm does not confine your swing to one mechanical style. As long as you stay within that external framework, you can, and should, express it in your own way.

A good way to discover your expression is to swing in the air, about halfway between a horizontal plane, like baseball players do, and near vertical, like golfers do. Split the difference. Swing back and forth at that middling angle looking for the way of expressing the 3:1 rhythm in a movement that feels right for you.

I know you’ll find it, along with a tempo that’s comfortable.

Now try hitting a few golf balls. You might find it to the the easiest thing you’ve ever done.