Perfect Golf Swing Tempo: 3-to-1 Rhythm Drills to Make it Happen

The perfect golf swing tempo is one that works for you and one that you can repeatedly execute. That being said, it’s a known fact that many of the all-time greatest golfers, including Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, have a 3 to 1 swing.

More on those details later, and why it matters!

Bottom line – I’m going to explain what the ratio is and how it was discovered. But more importantly, I’ll outline drills and free tools you can use to help you establish a good swing tempo for your game.

What is Swing Tempo in Golf?

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Swing tempo is simply the measure of your backswing compared to your downswing. How long does it take for you to reach the transition point at the top of your backswing? Then, how long does it take to make impact with the ball?

“Tempo is the glue that sticks all the elements of a golf swing together” – Nick Faldo

The Best Swing Tempo for your game

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Thanks to John Novosel, the 3 to 1 ratio was discovered. John was doing some video editing of a professional golfer in 2001 and at some point counted the frames in the backswing and downswing. He arrived at exactly 3:1.

Out of curiosity, he looked at a video of Tiger Woods from the 1997 Masters, and found the exact same ratio.

Why stop there? Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and several others also had this exact 3:1 ratio in their swing. John later published the book Tour Tempo in 2004.

John went on to build an entire business around his findings with training aids, another book, and even an app to help train golfers.

A later study from Yale University validated John’s findings. The study found “remarkable uniformity” in professional golfers’ swings. The study went on to suggest “professional golfers have at the core of their golf swing a biomechanical clock”. (source)

If a 3:1 ratio is good enough for the best golfers of all time, then I’d say 3:1 is probably good enough for you and me as well!

But how do we get there?

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How do you find your golf swing tempo

You can find your golf swing tempo by recording a video of yourself in slow-motion, or by using a free app.

Record Yourself

You’ll need to capture your entire swing, slow motion tends to work best.

When you make a recording on an iPhone for example, you can go to the recording and simply zoom in on the timeline under the video. From there, count the frames in your backswing and compare them to the number of frames it takes from transition to impact.

Sometimes the frames will not line up perfectly, so alternatively, you can use the slider and watch the elapsed time numbers to do the math.

There’s an App for That!

Swing Tempo Frame Counter App screenshot

Alternatively, there are free apps you can use. It’s way easier than the do-it-yourself method.

I used the Tour Tempo Frame Counter app and it is really simple to use. It’s free, and only takes a minute or two to find your tempo.

It uses your built-in camera. Once you capture a video, you can cut the excess. From there, you simply use the arrows to play through your swing, identifying start, top, and impact.

As you are stepping through, it is counting the frames for you. As you can see from my screenshot, I had a 28/11 tempo. A bit slow and needs some work. It was my first shot though.

How to improve your swing tempo

  1. Establish a baseline with the instructions provided on finding your swing tempo

  2. Pick a training aid, a tones app (free options provided below), or a swing trainer

  3. Build it into your practice routine to focus a part of your session on tempo

  4. Periodically measure your results, capturing a new baseline.

  5. Adjust as necessary until you find the proper tempo

As with anything in golf, some hard work and commitment to practice are going to be necessary in order to see results.

I will also say, finding the perfect tempo can certainly improve your golf game, but it is not going to magically put you on tour! I absolutely believe it is beneficial, and I have seen some positive changes since doing some work on it myself.

The biggest benefit I’ve seen is – it gets me out of my own head and somehow loosens me up. I chose to take the app approach. Listening to music and swinging to the beat removes all other thought.

Golf Swing Tempo Drills

The first drill I’ll mention is one that only requires your mind and some tones from a metronome. A what?!?! A metronome is a tool that produces a steady beat. There are free apps available to give you the magic 3:1 ratio.

Just search for “metronome” in your phone’s app store. I started by using “Pro Metronome”, it is free and simple to use.

How do I use this metronome thing? Meditation!

As you listen to the 3:1 tones, visualize your golf swing from start-to-finish matching the beat. Golf is a mental game – Meditation and visualization in golf are incredibly powerful techniques, as explained from a former olympic athlete who applied them at the highest levels.

An app with swing tempo music

Recording from the Golf BPM app.

I found an app called Golf BPM, developed by Golf Coach Doug Timmons and his team. I downloaded the free version, which is actually very feature rich!

You can hear the 3:1 tones overlayed to the music. This was rock, which is one of my favorites. I also like their “glow stick” track.

Within just a few minutes, I was visualizing my swing and then actually hitting some balls in the simulator.

If you watch the video from Doug, he tells you to start slow and get a feel for it. That’s great advice!

It has music from different genres, and includes swing tempo beats to the right ratio. Basically, listen to some music, swing to the beat.

Honestly, I cannot explain it better than Doug…just go download the free app and follow their instructions! Its really simple and you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

Swing Tempo Training aids

Many years ago I bought a Medicus driver. It was all the rage back in the 90’s and it actually did quite a bit for my swing at the time. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the club forced me to swing with some tempo.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, its basically a driver with a hinge in the lower part of the shaft. Swing too fast and the hinge breaks. Nice smooth transitions – hinge doesn’t break.

Anyway, in hindsight, the club forced some level of tempo. It may not be the “ideal” tempo, but the consistency that it required certainly helped.

I’ve heard similar claims from friends who use the Orange whip. It requires a level of consistency to swing the orange whip smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Swing tempo certainly has its place in the long list of “things” we need to do well in order to be successful. Ball striking is something I’ve been working hard to improve lately, and swing tempo is definitely a part of that.

As I’ve increased my swing speed through other drills and exercise, it has not necessarily translated to more distance. My efficiency numbers have taken a hit in the process.

In the small amount of swing tempo work I’ve done so far, I’m starting to see better numbers! It’s still early in my journey, so I plan to share some updates on this post in the future.

Good luck on the golf course!

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