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By: Dave Castleberry, PGA Professional
I like to tell all my students that they can work on all the technical aspects of their swing; they can strive for the perfect grip, posture, and alignment. Still, none of that will do any good unless your swing has these two basic golf swing elements: good tempo and great balance.
The next time you watch a great ball striker take a swing, whether in person or a tour player on television, take notice of their tempo and balance. All great ball strikers excel in this area, and that’s the main reason their swings look so smooth and effortless even though they are swinging the golf club at such great speed. Now take a look at a video of your swing in real-time. Does it look smooth throughout the entire swing from start to finish? Do you finish in a stable and upright position? Or does your swing look “herky-jerky” and as though you wouldn’t be able to hold your finish position for more than a second or two without losing balance? If the answer is the latter, then you need to forget all the technical aspects of your swing and work on smoothing out your tempo and gaining better balance before anything else.
Good tempo isn’t necessarily fast or slow; what it is, is smooth. In other words, you can have great tempo and a fast swing, just like you can have poor tempo and a slow swing. So don’t think that slowing down your swing will automatically give you good tempo. What you should be striving for is a 2 to 1 ratio with your backswing and your downswing. For example, if your backswing takes 1 second to complete, your downswing should take a ½ second (from the top of your backswing to impact). Additionally, your follow-through should take another ½ second (from impact to your finish position). A tool as simple as a metronome can help you with your tempo. Start your swing on one beat, reach the top of your swing on the next, and finish your swing on the third beat. Training aids like the “Orange Whip” are excellent at giving feedback on tempo. Remember that you are not trying to slow your swing down, but to smooth it out, so stay away from heavy clubs or weighted swing aids because they can cause you to lose valuable swing speed. As for balance, the first step is telling yourself to swing in balance. You’ll be amazed at how much your body will listen when you tell yourself to stay balanced. With that said, there are things you can do to improve your balance.
Simply standing on one leg with your arms at your side for as long as you can will help you build balance. Try each leg and time yourself. A good goal would be five minutes per leg. Next, try it with your eyes closed. PGA Tour players that were tested averaged 30 seconds. You have great balance if you can stand on one leg with your eyes closed for up to 30 seconds.
Lastly, ensure that your pre-shot routine involves a warm upswing and that it is a full swing to a well-balanced finish position that you can hold for more than a few seconds.