Rhythm,Timing and Tempo

Rhythm,Timing and Tempo

During the past U.S. Open on the Fox Television broadcast, Curtis Strange remarked that a lot of emphasis was placed on swing positions and movements, but little was placed on rhythm and tempo.

Strange had a point. It seems instruction these days has become so technical, so mechanical, that the artistic part of the swing has been lost in the maze of science.

Sam Snead once said that he imagined waltz music inside his head in order to get his rhythm right. If we told our students today to imagine this, we would probably get blank stares in this age of hip-hop and rap music. There are ways to get some rhythm, timing and tempo going in our students’ swings, but first we must define what each is in the scheme of the golf swing.

Rhythm is the combining of the different parts of the swing into the correct speeds. For example, if someone has a very slow backswing followed by a very fast downswing, the correct rhythm of the swing has been lost. The different parts of the swing should have some coherent relationship to each other in terms of the speed of movement.

Timing is the execution of the swing movements in the proper sequence. One of the biggest timing errors occurs when the arms and hands start the downswing before the lower body does. In the broadest sense, the upper body winds up the lower body on the backswing and the lower body unwinds the upper body on the downswing.

Getting this sequence wrong introduces a timing mistake that makes consistency difficult to achieve.

Tempo is the overall speed of the swing. We see faster tempos in the swings of Zach Johnson and Michelle Wie, and slower tempos occur in the swings of Ernie Els and Woody Austin.

A misconception that is thankfully dying out is that a golfer can never swing too slowly on the backswing. The problem with a slow backswing is that it requires a somewhat slow forward swing to have proper rhythm, and slow forward swings cost us distance. This might be okay for pitch shots and putts, but for full shots, some speed is required. In the case of Els, we mentioned he has a slower tempo, but it’s not slow. The size of his arc, due to his stature as a big man, allows him to swing a touch slower than a smaller golfer.

Another problem with a backswing that is too slow is that it lends itself to some instability in the movement of the club itself. Think of a gyroscope, or turning wheels on a bicycle. The faster they go, the more stability they have. It’s also a misconception that amateur golfers swing back slower than pros. Numerous studies confirm that professional golfers take less time to complete their backswings than do the average amateur. In this day and age of the long ball, golfers better be generating some clubhead speed if they want to be able to compete.

We defined rhythm for golf, but what constitutes proper rhythm? John Novosel, in his book Tour Tempo, states that professional golfers swing with a 3-to-1 time ratio when it comes to the backswing and downswing (to impact). He has found that the closer a golfer comes to this ratio, no matter the overall tempo, the better the golfer is likely to play.

As mentioned earlier, transition represents the biggest challenge in terms of timing. One of the best drills to teach the proper timing of the transition is the step drill. From a normal setup position, the golfer places his forward foot (left foot for a right-handed golfer) against his back foot and then begins the swing. As the club is reaching the completion of its backswing journey, the golfer steps with his forward foot back into a normal position, representing the correct timing of the lower body movement. Done correctly, the arms and hands will remain somewhat passive until just before reaching the hips, at which point the momentum allows the golfer to activate the hands and arms through impact with great force. Ben Hogan wrote that at this stage of the swing he wished he had three right hands to apply the power.

The great Snead used waltz music to hone his rhythm and tempo, and some modern-day golfers also listen to music on the range to achieve the same purpose. Another tool that can be used effectively is a metronome, which can easily be found online and used with a smartphone.

Golfers who are swinging well should take great care to note the rhythm, timing and tempo of their present swing and commit it to memory. Often it is not swing positions that go awry when our games go off; it is one of these three aspects that are frequently given short shrift by both teachers and students alike. Give your students a lesson in proper rhythm, timing and tempo, and the sound of their solidly-struck shots is sure to be music to their ears.

Rhythm …combining of the different parts of the swing into the correct speeds. Timing…the execution of the swing movements in the proper sequence. Tempo…the overall speed of the swing.
The Power Of Three Squared

The Power Of Three Squared

By Bert Jones USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® Loomis, California

Everything that you do in your life will be decided by three words: need, want and desire. If you don’t believe me, take the test and think about its application to your golf game. Before testing, we must define the three words that will be used.

  • NEED –require (something), because it is essential or very important. (These are the essentials that you must have, and should not be confused with want.)
  • WANT – a lack or deficiency of something other than need.
  • DESIRE – a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. (Your desire should have purpose, which will help avoid anxiety and create alignment between your heart, mind and soul.)

    Let’s apply the concept to a golf game. I “need “to hit the ball straight and farther in order to score lower. I “want” new equipment that fits my swing so I can hit the ball straighter and farther. I “desire “to shoot even par. You can apply the three words in a multiple of applications to create a vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Clearly, if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there. So it is vital that you take the time to think about what you want, need and desire. Be very clear about the answers so you don’t waste time, money and energy.

    Now, let’s take the above concept and place it into a matrix using three additional words: planning, execution and capacity. Planning, execution and capacity are part of the continuum of time needed to accomplish the need, want and desire. Before we continue, let’s look at the definitions.

  • PLANNING – the decisions that are arranged in advance. Use the SMART acronym (Specific, Measureable, Aligned, Realistic and Time-based) as a means to create your plan.
  • EXECUTION – the carrying-out or the putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.
  • CAPACITY – the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something.
  • Building a matrix with need, want and desire using a vertical axis allows us to see a vision. Use of planning, execution and capacity on the horizontal axis allows us to understand what has to happen to implement the vision. Each square of the matrix can be interdependent or dependent based on the sophistication of your goals. Lastly, it is critical to understand the values of capacity in terms of physical energy, finances, knowledge, skill, ability and time to integrate your matrix.

    I have often joked that the Law of Three –meaning it always takes three times longer to accomplish something than originally planned –should be a main element in your planning process.

    The power of three squared can be a useful tool to help you succeed in golf! Feel – think – plan – do– evaluate – repeat. Turn your need, want and desire into “I did!”
    Common Sense Course Management

    Common Sense Course Management

    Why did you hit it over that waste area on thirteen?” Alan Pate asked me after the round. We were playing a mini-tour event on the Emerald Coast Golf Tour in the early 1990s, and Pate and I had been paired together. He was an All-American golfer at the University of Alabama, had played some on the PGA Tour, and eventually became a winner on what is now known as the Web.com Tour.

    “I wanted a shorter third shot into the green,” I replied. I had attempted a risky second shot over a waste area on the par-5 13th hole at Shalimar Pointe Golf Club, and was successful in pulling it off, although barely. It gave me an80-yard sand wedge approach to the back pin location, where if I laid up, I would have had about 130 yards left.

    “Well, that wasn’t a smart shot,” Pate told me. “You had to hit it perfectly to clear that waste area, and suppose you just missed it. You would have been in that waste area and probably in a lot of trouble.” The waste area back then had a lot of pampas grass bushes and other nasty stuff in it.

    “Look, the bottom line is it was going to take you two more shots to hit the green,” he continued. “You have to make sure you have the second shot.”

    You have to make sure you have the second shot. No bit of advice on how to play the game has resonated more with me in my long teaching and playing career. It led to my deep interest with course management and how to best make your way around the layout. From what Pate told me, I came up with two absolute tenets of course management that I follow to this day: 1) Never plan your strategy based on having to hit a perfect shot, unless absolutely necessary; 2) plan to avoid the worst trouble.

    There are two holes at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada, where we just finished the U.S. and World Golf Teachers Cups, that are perfect examples of course management choices. The first is the second hole on the Coyote Run nine, and the other is the ninth hole, also on Coyote Run. Both holes are par-4s and have split fairways, or two different fairways. On both holes, the left fairway option is riskier but offers a much shorter second shot than does the right fairway.

    The second hole has a large fairway bunker that, as measured on Google Earth, takes 228 yards to clear from the tees we played. If successful, the player has a fairway that is 44yards wide awaiting him. If a player cannot clear the bunker, which I can’t, the choices are to play out to the wide part of the fairway right of the bunker, which is 42 yards across, or play down the left side, which is only 24 yards wide and narrows to 12 yards wide with other bunkers coming into play. On all four days of the tournaments, I hit a 3-wood into the wide part of the fairway. I made two pars and two birdies doing so.

    I did see a few of my playing partners go left of the bunker into the narrower fairway, even though they couldn’t clear the big bunker. A couple of times they were successful and went through the 12-yard-wide gap, leaving them with flip wedges into the green, whereas I had 6-, 7- and 8-irons. However, how many times are you going to hit a 12-yard-wide gap with a full driver? Not many. I mean, if you have the confidence to hit such a small gap with your driver, fine, but I don’t understand that play at all, to be honest. As for the others who didn’t make the gap? Most of them wound up with difficult bunker shots.

    The ninth hole at Coyote Run is somewhat the same but offers one big difference: The riskier fairway is somewhat wider than the one on the second hole. The left fairway on the ninth has a creek running down both sides with a pond 260 yards off the tee on the left-hand side. Short of the pond, the fairway is 48 yards across, while at the pond and beyond it narrows to 35 yards. These seem like generous yardages, but the problem is the fairway is diagonal from left to right, so the playing width is less from a practical standpoint. The fairway is extremely wide going down the right-hand side with an actual and practical width of 45 yards. However, taking this option leaves a much longer second shot into the green, and the difference is dramatic: A long iron or hybrid vs. A short iron, in my case. And I’m sure other competitors faced the same choice.

    So in this case, going down the left fairway is well worth the risk, because while I don’t have any analytics to back this up, I think in the long run a player’s scoring average will be less. In my case, again all four days I went down the wider right fairway. I made three pars and a bogey.

    Why did I not go left? For me, when I have severe trouble awaiting me on both sides on a long shot, it creates too much pressure to allow me to confidently hit a shot. Going down the right fairway was the correct option for me, even if it meant a hybrid second shot, and that’s okay. The green was relatively large with not much real trouble around it. I reasoned the worst I could make was bogey going this way, whereas if I went left, bogey might be the best I could make.

    All of this applies to other areas in course management, including approach shots. One of the worst things to do is short-side yourself, or missing the green on the same side where the hole location is. You won’t have much green to work with, so it’s better to miss to the wider side if you’re going to miss the shot. On short irons, it’s okay to fire right at the flag, but with medium irons and longer, I like to just hit into an area between the flagstick and the wider edge of the green. For example, if the pin is on the right side of the green and I have a 5-iron approach, I will aim for the general area between the flagstick and the left edge of the green.

    If a pin is up front on longer approaches, most players, including accomplished ones, will do well to take enough club to reach the middle of the green. That way, if the shot is mis-struck, it will still probably be pin-high, or relatively close.

    If you think I favor a conservative game plan, you’re correct. I believe most shots are lost, not because the player failed to play great, but because they failed to not play poorly. That doesn’t mean playing scared or playing not to lose, far from it. There are plenty of opportunities on most courses to play aggressively with little or no risk, and those opportunities should be taken advantage of. But when there is risk, it must be weighed and dealt with accordingly.

    Alan Pate made a huge difference in how I approach the game. I’m happy to pass on his wisdom, and I hope you and your students can benefit from his kindness to a then-new golf professional.
    The Y Solution

    The Y Solution

    By Bert Jones USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® Loomis, California

    The Y Solution is a new term that I have invented to explain the confluence of three branches as represented by the letter Y: spatial awareness, coherence, and proprioception. Each branch has a unique influence on the game of golf.

    Before we begin, let’s define each branch so we can better apply teaching our clients.

    SPATIAL AWARENESS is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organized knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position.

    PROPRIOCEPTION is the sense of the orientation and relative position of neighboring parts of the body and the strength of effort being employed in movement. The ability to swing a golf club or to catch a ball requires a finely tuned sense of the position of the joints. Proprioception is a ten-dollar word to describe your awareness of how your body is moving based on how the muscles feel.

    COHERENCE is an optimal physiological state where your heart, mind and emotions are harmoniously functioning in alignment and cooperation. In my opinion, it is the main branch of the letter Y that supports the other two components.

    Now that we have defined the three branches, let’s apply the Y Solution to the game of golf.

    Research shows that when we activate the state of coherence, our physiological systems function more efficiently. We experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive functions. Simply stated, when our mind and emotions, brain and body work in harmony with our heart, we feel better. We care more, and our performance lifts us at work and in our interactions.

    We all want players to get their focus and concentration on the target rather than swing thoughts. Spatial awareness, which requires keeping your eyes on the ball when your target is hundreds of yards in the distance, demands the ability to create a clear mental picture. Only then can you make a truly target-oriented swing that has been freed up.

    It boils down to this: What a golfer should be seeking to produce is a reflex response to visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimuli (sight, sound and feel). Your brain must operate from the subconscious. Before settling over the ball, you must build a complete picture of your target, including the flagstick, landing area, trajectory and roll. Loading the wrong software is done by picturing a bad shot.

    The best way to enhance proprioception is through targeted exercises and golf drills. It is vital that we as golf instructors identify exercises and golf drills that are player-specific to the issues that we want to work on. For example, we want to improve overall hip rotation to enhance proper slotting in the plane to avoid the over-the-top swing fault. When the player understands and feels the relationship of where the body must be in relationship to the club, we will see proprioception at work.

    Next time you see your client holding a golf club at the setup position, think of the Y Solution.
    The USGTF and its Global Influence

    The USGTF and its Global Influence

    The year was 1993, and the USGTF was four years into its existence. Certification classes in the United States were sold out, with 50 participants regularly attending each of the then-quarterly sessions. New members were going out and finding or creating employment, a phenomenon that was not going unnoticed.

    One of those who took notice did not reside in the USA, but in faraway Timmendorfer-Strand, Germany. His name was Achim Picht, a man who owned a chain of golf schools named AMP Golf. Picht’s schools had locations in both Germany and Spain, and while the schools were successful, his instructors had no certification or formal training of any sort. Picht realized that to fend off the growing competition, he needed to bring some added credibility to his operation.

    So in January 1993, a team of examiners led by president Geoff Bryant traveled to Malaga, Spain, to conduct the first USGTF certification class on foreign soil. On the team were Ben Jackson, Mark Harman, Ken Butler and Bob Sprigle, along with staff members Arnold James, Andy Ritondale and Bill Evans, the latter three serving as support for the international mission. The week exceeded everyone’s expectations, concluding with a fabulous dinner up in the mountains of the Costadel Sol.

    The course in January was so successful that Picht brought back the USGTF examining team later that September to his home base in Germany, where 22 participants enrolled. That number was astounding, considering at the time the popularity of golf in Germany wasn’t anywhere close to what it is today, with far fewer golf courses. But demand for golf and proper instruction was increasing, and Picht saw that he needed to be a part of it.Picht, one of the pioneers of German golf instruction, passed away several years ago, leaving a legacy that is among the most important for the growth of the game in that country.

    Korean Golf Takes World Stage

    Many people attribute the proliferation of Korean players on the LPGA Tour to the victory of Se Ri Pak at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, but the truth is the seed for success was planted much earlier. Beginning with the very first classes held in 1989, Koreans were a large presence at USGTF certification classes. It was not uncommon to see, out of 50 total participants, 10-20 from Korea. Some resided in the USA, but many returned home to teach the game to a new generation eager to learn. Pak’s victory only continued a trend that was started by these early pioneers with the help of the USGTF. It’s safe to say that even had Pak not won, there would still be a large Korean presence in the women’s game today, thanks to those who saw the value of USGTF certification in helping them grow the game in their native country.

    Prior to the USGTF’s existence, teaching golf in Korea was largely the domain of the club professionals in that country at the relatively few courses at the time. The game was exclusionary, as only those who had ample financial resources could play or afford lessons. With the arrival of these new Korean USGTF members who set up teaching operations wherever they could, a completely different audience was reached. Junior golfers who showed promise were allowed access to courses, with most of them having been taught by USGTF members.

    It eventually became obvious that Korea needed its own golf teaching federation, and Sammy Oh took the reins. He oversaw the growth of his fledgling association, and needed the assistance of the USGTF examining team to initially handle the instruction. The first class he conducted saw over200 participants, all eager to learn and promote the game. Oh has since retired, and today Brandon Lee has capably taken over as president of USGTF-Korea.

    In the United States, Man Kim, then from San Jose, California, attended a USGTF certification class at Adobe Creek Golf Course in Petaluma, California, in the mid-1990s. Instead of returning to Korea, he stayed in the USA and taught his young daughter the game with the principles he learned from the USGTF. His daughter was Christina, and Christina Kim turned out to be one of the most prominent U.S. Players during her career on the LPGA Tour, where she still plays today. She attended the 2015 World Golf Teachers Cup as a spectator, saying hello to many USGTF and WGTF members and impressing everyone with her graciousness.

    A Worldwide Influence

    In 1997, the inaugural World Golf Teachers Cup was held in Naples, Florida, with participants from several different nations. The tournament was the first that brought international teaching professionals together from multiple nations to represent their countries, and still today it’s unique among competitions. The second World Cup was held in Spain in 1998. Golf has always been healthy in the United Kingdom, and continental Europe continues to see more of its players and teachers play an international role.

    Canada saw its first certification class held in 1994 at Upper Canada Golf Course in Morrisburg, Ontario. Since that time, first Bob Bryant and now Marc Ray have served as presidents of the Canadian Golf Teachers Federation, and its members have made a lasting impact in teaching the game in that country. In Australia, Gary Cooney has ably led the Australian Golf Teachers Federation for a number of years, helping to promote the game in the Land Down Under.

    Golf in Brazil became a focus with the inclusion of the sport in the Olympic Games in 2016, but prior to that in 2005, Sao Jose Golf Club just outside Sao Paolo hosted the 7th biennial World Golf Teachers Cup. Despite the game being still a relatively minor sport in South America, 88 players teed it up in February of that year for individual and team honors.

    China became the first Asian nation to host the World Golf Teachers Cup in 2013, and the event was a rousing success. That country is currently facing some adversity in golf with the state-ordered closings of several golf courses, but USGTF-China is successfully meeting those challenges with Steve Mak at the helm.

    Golf has seen tremendous growth inter-nationally the past three decades, and the USGTF has been there, serving to train and certify the instructors who have been instrumental in this growth. The future of the game certainly looks bright, no matter what language you may speak.
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