Rhythm, Tempo & Timing – What’s The Difference?
Growing up I always heard these three terms applied in my golf lessons. My Dad and home professional both felt like these were key elements of a functional and sound golf swing. But I hear too many golfers toss them around like they were interchangeable. They are not! So, let’s dive into these three very basic fundamentals of a solid and repeating golf swing that will serve you well.
Rhythm – The symphony of the pieces.
I was taught that the rhythm of your swing was the smoothness of the motion, from the time you move the club away from the ball until you finish your follow-through. The goal is to have a series of motions that blend together into one synchronized “swing”. Too many golfers that I see are so deliberate on their backswing, that they move the club almost painfully slow for at least half the backswing . . . maybe all the way to the top, then lurch at the ball with something that looks like a cross between a lunge and a stab. A swing like this is lacking in rhythm.
What you are seeking is a movement of grace and seamlessness. From the initial move of the club away from the ball, you want to feel and look effortless, smooth . . . so that the entire swing is a continuous motion of increasing power and effectiveness. Don’t let your swing become a series of “mini-swings” or movements, but make it a symphony of many pieces working together to produce ONE simple, smooth and functional move through the ball.
Tempo – The pace of the action.
While all good players have a very similar rhythm to their swings, there is no one correct tempo that produces great results. Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and others have played the game with a quick tempo that produced great results. The rhythm and timing of their movements were impeccable, but they did it all at a much quicker pace than many of their peers. Sam Snead and Freddie Couples are at the other end of the spectrum. Those beautiful flowing and seemingly effortless swings are beauty in motion. So, which is better?
You have to play the game with a swing tempo that matches your life tempo. For example, I’m a fast-paced guy. I walk fast, talk fast and have one foot out of the cart before it stops rolling -- so my swing tempo is much quicker than one of my best buddies who I don’t believe has “hurry” in his vocabulary. Alan is methodical, takes his time with everything. And his swing reflects that with its syrup-y pace and tempo. He delivers the clubhead with a lot of power which doesn’t look like it – kind of like Freddy, Sam and Ernie Els.
The point is that you have to swing the club with a tempo that matches how you do everything else in life – or you’ll fight it forever.
Timing – How it all comes together.
While rhythm and tempo describe how the swing looks, timing defines how it works. For any golf swing . . . of any tempo . . . or any rhythm . . . to deliver consistent results, all the pieces and parts have to happen in the proper sequence. This is what’s called timing. It is independent of rhythm and tempo, but reflects how the pieces of the swing come together to work as a well-oiled machine. And timing gets knocked out of kilter by the littlest things, usually self-inflicted.
You see trouble left and subconsciously block the hands a bit through impact to avoid it. You want to turn the ball over a bit, so you over-initiate the rotation of the forearms through impact. You missed the last putt right, so you give it a little “hitch” just before impact.
You get the picture, I think.
Rhythm, Tempo and Timing. These are the basics. Think about how you can make yours better, and share with us, OK?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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