Tempo is one of those secrets of golf that few people truly understand. But when you do, it can change your golf game forever.
What about golf short game tempo though?
While most know about golf swing tempo, what about your short game timing? Is it the same tempo as a full swing? Does it change for bunker shots or a short pitch shot?
These are all great questions and ones we’re going to answer today. If you’re ready to improve your short game and become more consistent around the greens, it’s time to work on your tempo.
Golf Short Game Tempo
Short game tempo is nothing like a full swing tempo.
Tempo simply means the total time it takes you to swing the golf club. It’s a combination of your backswing, transition, and downswing.
When it comes to full swing tempo, studies and the book Tour Tempo, have found the ideal timing is 3:1. This means that a great ball striker’s backswing takes 3X as long as their downswing.
It’s important to note that tempo does not mean swing speed.
A slow tempo or fast tempo has nothing to do with how fast or slow you swing the golf club. Tempo refers to the correlation between backswing and downswing time.
Let’s get into how to create a world-class short game swing with perfect tempo so you dominate any golf course.
- Practice swings can train your tempo.
- Faster tempo doesn’t necessarily mean good tempo.
- Short game tempo is different from long game tempo.
- There are several golf apps that will train you to have perfect tempo.
Keep reading to learn more about tempo so you can save shots around the green.
Short Game Tempo
While a 3:1 tempo is great for your full swing, it’ll lead to disaster in your short game. Think about it, chips and pitches happen from close range and you don’t need a big swing to execute the shot.
Instead, you want a 2:1 tempo according to John Novosel, the author of Tour Tempo and Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game and Beyond. He also has an app with the same name that teaches you how to groove the perfect tempo for your full swing and short game (more on that in the next section).
As described in his second book, learning this secret can change everything, “Got the dreaded yips with your putter or chipping club? TT2 has the cure. Can’t hit those short game shots from 40 to 60 yards? TT2 short-game tones give you the feel for the tournament player’s favorite stroke saver. Terrified of greenside bunker shots? TT2 reveals the tempo secret that makes sand play so easy for tour pros.”
While Tour pros don’t have much in common in terms of grip, swing speed, equipment, and routines, tempo is one of them. If you observe golfers closely like the author of the book did, it’s easy to figure out their short game success.
For full shots and short shots, they all have a tempo that makes it easy to hit it better than ever. The same goes with short shots, the tempo just changes on short, precision swings.
60 Yards and In
Once you’re inside 60 yards, your swing and approach to the game should change. If you struggle on these 40-60 yard shots with a choppy swing, tempo might be the reason.
Here’s what the author said in Tour Tempo 2, “World-class players, when they are playing their best, adhere to a 2-to-1 tempo constant on shots from 60 yards in.”
So if you want to improve your short game immediately, it’s time to speed up your tempo!
But he elaborated by saying, “However the time it takes a given player to execute those shots is not necessarily linked to the players full-swing tempo. The shorter swings can be significantly faster or slower than the longer swings, depending on the individual.”
As he mentioned, it’s individualized to each player.
For example these players have a 20/10 timing (which takes 1 full second); Padraig Harrington, David Toms, and Charley Hoffman. While others have a 16/8 timing (which takes .80 seconds) including Tiger Woods, Steve Marino, and Graeme McDowell.
All great players but all have their own timing for the 2/1 ratio. This creates a fluid swing motion and ideal swing length.
This makes a ton of sense if you think about what most golfers do on these tricky 50 or 60 yard shots. Most golfers tend to take a big backswing, realize it’s too much of a swing and then decelerate on the downswing.
This leads to a lot of fat shots and overall inconsistency. And also why the normal method of “swinging like a clock” doesn’t work. Avoid this practice drill as it’ll likely groove the wrong tempo.
By speeding up your tempo it can help create a crisp, clean strike on the ball and lead to a lot more greens. Head to the practice range, backyard, or local ball field to swing the club and see how tempo should feel with short shots. Take several practice swings and you’ll instantly learn a secret of a great short game.
If you’re like a lot of golfers you might wonder how tempo changes in the bunker? Because let’s face it, most golfers struggle out of the bunker.
In the book, Golf Without Fear, the author Dave Pelz polled thousands of players and found that a greenside bunker shot is the second most feared shot in golf. Even the PGA Tour average is only about 50% from bunkers – despite immaculate sand, new golf balls, and custom fit wedges.
I don’t know what the excuse is for these guys but tempo might be to blame for the everyday golfer. In fact, in the original Tour Tempo book the author mentioned it’s likely 3:1 out of the sand. But he was quickly humbled after more research and has since changed his opinion since then.
Saying in Tour Tempo 2: “I must have been on ryegrass when I told Garrity that tour players were 3-to-1 from bunkers. That was flat out wrong. Phil Mickelson’s wrist hinge on chip shots is so abrupt that his club is parallel to the ground before his hands have moved back a foot.”
At least the author admitted the mistake and changed his opinion. A faster, 2:1 tempo is also a great way to approach bunker shots so you generate plenty of speed. Don’t forget, sand is heavy and you need speed + acceleration to escape the sand consistently.
A 3:1 tempo will create a less than stellar result on a normal pitch or bunker shot. Since you can’t take a practice swing in a bunker, make sure to mentally focus on this before walking into the trap.
Tour Tempo App (iOS only)
The Tour Tempo app is one of the best ways to improve your golf swing timing. In the app you can listen to long game and short game tones or voice prompts to time your swing perfectly.
Whether you swing it fast or slow, they have a timer with the right 3/1 (long game) or 2/1 ratio (short game). For example, in the short game section they have 14/7, 16/8, 18/9, 20/10, or 22/11. These tones and voice prompts make it incredibly easy to train your swing on the range or short game area.
If you haven’t invested this $25 into your game yet, I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, the Tour Tempo app is only available in the App store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
FAQs About Tempo in Golf
Do you have more questions about finding the right tempo for your golf swing? If so, keep reading to learn more and dial in one of the most important fundamentals in the game.
What is a good tempo for the golf swing? What is a 3-1 tempo in golf?
A 3-1 tempo in golf is the ideal tempo to make a consistent strike at the golf ball. This means your backswing takes 3X as long as your downswing.
Which makes sense as you need to load up on the backswing to unwind quickly on the downswing. This is where your weight shifts and you accelerate through the golf ball at impact. Remember, you can only accelerate once in the golf swing and it needs to happen at impact, not the transition or takeaway.
What is considered a short game in golf?
Short game is a broad golf term that is used to describe shots from close range. This might mean 10 or 20 yards off the green, depending on who you ask. But in terms of changing tempo, it’s up to 60 yards.
Your short game consists of chipping, pitching, bunker shots, flop shots, and putting. These shots tend to make up a majority of your score (especially if you’re a higher handicap golfer). This is why you should spend most of your time practicing inside 100 yards with an emphasis on wedges and putting.
What is Tiger Woods swing tempo?
Tiger’s swing speed has changed over the years, especially since his early days of swinging a driver with a steel shaft! In those days Tiger was lashing at the ball unlike any other golf on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, due to his injuries he’s slowed down a bit but some might argue he has better tempo than ever.
Like all elite players, Tiger Woods has a 3-1 tempo; meaning his backswing is 3X as long as his downswing. If you watched the Match at the end of 2022 you could see Tiger still had plenty of speed and often hit it longer than Justin Thomas or Jordan Speith. Pretty impressive for someone who is nearly 50 years old!
Is 120 swing speed good?
Yes, a 120 mph clubhead speed is more than good – it’s more than the PGA Tour average. Anything over 100mph in terms of clubhead speed is an incredible feat for amateur golfers.
It’s important to understand that swing speed is different from ball speed. According to Trackman Golf the average ball speed is 132 mph with only 93.4 mph swing speed.
If you’re interested in increasing speed to hit it longer it’s a good idea to invest in a launch monitor. These small devices make it easy to measure your carry distance, swing speed, ball speed, and other metrics.
Should my backswing be fast or slow?
Faster than you think. I learned the advice “low and slow” when I started playing/practicing at the driving range and think it can hurt your game. If you take a slow backswing you will have to speed up eventually… which often leads to a rushed transition.
Instead of thinking slowly on the way back, think smooth, control tempo. This will help you speed up your backswing and ultimately create more clubhead speed. Which will translate to more power and longer shots with every club in the bag.
If you struggle with a rushed transition, experiment with different backswing times to see how it impacts your ball striking. It’s also a good idea to download the app Tour Tempo so you can sequence your swing more effectively.
Final Thoughts on Short Game Tempo
Tempo is a critical ingredient in your golf swing but it does change for your short game. Since short game shots are much closer to the hole, you don’t need a long, fluid swing.
While the proper tempo for a full swing is 3:1, the ideal tempo for your short game is 2:1. A quick tempo will lead to more consistency and better chip shots. Start practicing these now to see fast results!
Invest in an app like Tour Tempo or a metronome you can easily train your swing for better timing. This will make it easier to get the ball up and down to save tons of shots around the green. Whether you’re chipping, pitching, or hitting bunker shots, think about a 2:1 tempo to hit it better than ever.
For more, make sure to read our article on putting tempo as well.