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February 19 2013

8:30 AM

On the Mark: Tempo and timing

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- There were many storylines and certainly many lessons we could learn from John Merrick's win at the Northern Trust Open. Among those I considered was playing with a lead as the defending champion, which Bill Haas had to do, and playing a short, dangerous par 4, which Riviera's devlish 315-yard 10th is. Finally, I settled on the concept of swing rhythm and timing, something Merrick clearly exhibits.

Bob Jones once stated that “rhythm and timing are the two things which we all must have, yet no one knows how to teach either.” There are a few factors one can consider to promote improvement in this delicate area of the swing.

Merrick swings the golf club with a languid and timed grace. His swing has a wide arc and its tempo is smooth and unhurried.  It is enviable to say the least. Realistically, it is impossible for everyone to swing the club as smoothly and slowly as Merrick -- your swing needs to mirror your personality and manner. Hence if you are upbeat I would venture that your swing should carry and upbeat tempo -- Nick Price and Web Simpson are good examples of this. If your personality is easy-going and relaxed, you should make every effort to swing the club in a similar fashion. 

Swing tempo is one thing. Timing is entirely another. By timing, I mean the coordination and sequencing of the moving parts in the swing. Good timing of the swing is considerably more important than tempo. I have seen many slower swings that are mis-timed and I have seen many brisk swings that are perfectly timed. So in your swing maintenance, remember that slower is not always better, well-timed is.

If you are looking to work on your swing’s timing you should begin is with a firm understanding that the swing’s purpose is to present the clubface in the correct fashion so as to deliver the desired shot. Too many golfers embark on swing adjustments without the requisite understanding of how the adjustment will influence the clubface’s attitude at impact.

From there, remember that the movement of the legs, the torso, the arms, and the wrists should all work at a speed which allows them to arrive at impact in the correct manner.

The two most typical timing errors I often encounter are: 1) A shoulder-rotation that spins out of the downswing, leaving the arms and the club behind and 2) A late release of the wrists and a late rotation of the forearms approaching impact.

Both of these timing issues can be easily remedied with a simple exercise.

Grab an outdoor broomstick, the kind with the corn bristles, and grip it like a club with the bristles in an upright fashion. Make a swing back and through into a balanced finish -- note that the swing may feel flatter than your regular action. Strive as you do so to sweep the bristles along the turf in the area where impact would be. Do this a few times and you will sense how the bristles of the broomstick create resistance through the air and how your body has to wait for the arms and the broom in the transition and into the downswing. You may also feel how the muscles in your core and your legs engage to provide a stable hub for the swing. Pay attention to all of these feelings as they are indicative of a well-timed, properly sequenced swing.

Once you have a sense for the speed and time at which elements of your swing move, grab your golf club and strive for the same action as you hit shots. Initially the club may feel lighter, but you will get used to it fairly quickly. This is also a great drill to promote and develop the muscle groups that are used in the golf swing.

Remember, tempo is important but timing is where it’s at.

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