Is tempo a real thing in golf and how important actually is it?


What do golfers need to know about tempo?


Tempo, tempo, tempo. It’s something golfers think about all the time, but should they? Everyone from the pros to weekend warriors get nervous standing over their golf ball with swing thoughts running through their heads. We all want to make more consistent contact, but is focusing on tempo the right way to achieve that goal? Enter GOLF’s resident low-handicaps, who are here to offer some helpful advice, golfer-to-golfer.

1. Tempo is important, but swing hard

Dylan Dethier (+3.3 handicap): Oh boy, now I’m fully triggered. My freshman year of college we went to Florida for our team’s spring break trip. A day after shooting a neat 71 in a scrimmage, I got my first-ever golf lesson from one of my coach’s friends. He kept saying, “There’s no such thing as rhythm. There’s no such thing as tempo. There is only sequence.” He also wanted me to pretend I was balancing a pizza tray at the top of my swing. I think I shot 93 that day. Tempo matters! But you can still swing hard.

2. Tempo isn’t the *only* thing that matters

Luke Kerr-Dineen (2.2 handicap): I do think that recreational golfers vastly over-rate the importance of tempo, and see it as a kind of mythical cure-all when, in actuality, there’s an underlying technical issue causing their bad shots. When it does come to tempo, there’s no such thing as good tempo or bad tempo, at least in my mind, because the tempo of everybody’s swing is different. What matters is that you keep it consistent from shot to shot. That’s what will help you repeat the sequence of your swing, which is what will improve your timing.

3. Find YOUR perfect tempo

Josh Sens (2.5 handicap): I didn’t realize there was anyone who would argue that tempo ISN’T a real thing. I have a homemade swing with so many mechanical flaws, I would go so far as to say that tempo is pretty much the ONLY real thing. I used to play a lot with a friend who’d competed on the Korean LPGA Tour. Her advice to me was to count 1-2 in my head on my backswing and downswing, with the 1 drawn out into two beats — “wah–un” for the backswing, and the 2 on the downswing. In my experience, most swing tips have a shelf life of a couple of rounds before the correction becomes a mistake. That 1-2 count is the only advice I’ve ever gotten that I can still depend on. Obviously, not everyone plays with the same tempo. But finding a tempo that works for you is very much a real thing. Not fake news.

4. Good tempo doesn’t mean slow

Ashley Mayo (3.1 handicap): Tempo is essential! Now, there’s a difference between tempo and speed. Nailing tempo doesn’t mean swinging slow—you can swing fast and with ideal tempo.

5. Good tempo is one of the basics

Joe Summa (4.9 handicap): Tempo allows the numerous moving parts of the ever so complicated golf swing to come full circle and produce a desirable, consistent golf shot. Having a fluid golf swing with tempo in mind at takeaway and impact of the golf ball is crucial when trying to hit flush, center faced strikes. I think as we discuss players with higher and higher handicaps, tempo becomes more and more important, with those players usually less confident in ball striking abilities. When I start spraying the ball, it’s usually a result of over swinging. This is when I take a deep breath and get back to tempo basics.

Luke Kerr-Dineen Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.