Yesterday at the Masters, Nick Faldo commented that tempo was the glue that held the golf swing together. If that is true, how can you assure yourself that you will have good tempo when you need it the most?
Your body's tempo is controlled by your central nervous system telling your heart what to do. When you are exercising or excited, it beats faster. When you are sleeping, it slows down. Your central nervous system will also be what controls your golf swing in much the same way as it controls your heart, but unlike the involuntary muscles of the heart, you are in control of the muscles that control your tempo.
The best way to control your tempo is to think of your body turn as the hub of your swing. The hub of your golf swing will control tempo, much as the axle controls the spin of the tire. One of the first things that can throw off a golfer's tempo is failing to make a good turn away from the ball on the back swing. When the body doesn't turn away, the hands take off and things start moving too quickly from the beginning. The body turn should always be in charge of the overall tempo.
The next link in the chain of tempo is the arms. If you have great posture and your arms swing freely around you, you can swing smoothly. If your posture gets out of whack due to inattention, your tempo will quickly become jerky because the arms will need to offset the posture and your swing plane will be manipulated. If your hands, arms and shoulders tighten up from tension for any reason, the outside of your wheel will no longer swing freely and keep up with the body's turn and tempo. This will also throw off your hopes of a smooth swing.
Now you know what will disrupt your tempo. How can you assure a round of golf with good tempo? First, your warm up should be in tune with your needs. Some people can feel their rhythm by hitting little wedges and some feel it by hitting full drivers. Finding your rhythm is one of your main tasks during warm up. If you immediately dive into mechanics or positions during the warm up, you will probably not find your tempo. Tempo is the beat of your swing and like your heart, you would wish it to be involuntary, not a thought process that produces a beat.
On the course, one of the killers of tempo is tension. For your tempo to stay consistent through tense times, you need a good routine and steady focus. Has there been a blog where I don't speak of the importance of a good routine? Your routine is crucial to performance under pressure and one of the things your routine helps you manage is your tempo. How? All the little things you do in your routine, like a club twirl, a waggle, a long look at the target or a deep breath will set the tone for your tempo. Everything in a routine has a reason, but you shouldn't have to explain it or defend it. It simply is something you do and it probably contributes to your management of tempo.
Understanding your state is important also. When your tension creeps up, do you speed up? Or do you slow down? Both reactions happen to great players and your goal is to recognize it and stop the trend. If your nerves cause you to walk faster and your mind starts to whirl, it will definitely effect your golf swing. The same happens when great players slow down under pressure. They read putts a little more intensely. They take an extra 20 seconds to pull a club and their pre shot routine might seemingly grind to a halt. No matter how you react under pressure, your goal should be to find a rhythm for your walk down the fairway that mirrors your best day on the course. Your decisions need to be made and committed to within a similar time period as they are on your best day and your routine needs to be the trend setter of your tempo, not a follower of your energy of the moment. This means that you have to take note and pay attention to those great days. Not during the action, but afterward, you need to spend some time and reflect. The best teacher of you is you! When you are at your best, reflect upon it.
The final thing that is important for your tempo is to remember that you are human. You will have days when things fall into place and days when everything seems to be a chore. If you want to play great golf on both of these days, you have to keep it loose and have smooth tempo. An attitude of perfection will bring about a reaction of pressing and criticism. Be your own friend on the course by excusing mistakes and moving on. Your tempo will stay intact if you can grant yourself forgiveness for being human. If you can't accept the fact that on some days you will be a bit off, your troubles will multiply. Perfection causes tension, which in turn causes tight muscles. Good luck making a smooth swing with tightness in your neck, shoulders or arms.
Your tempo is the beat of your golf game. Your rhythm adapts your tempo to the situation at hand. Unlike your heart, which is involuntary, for the most part, your golf muscles are reliant upon your state of mind. Your state of mind is completely within your control on good days and tough days. Dig deep, give yourself a break, walk with a purpose and enter your pre shot routine with the looseness of a great athlete.