Rhythm is one of those skills in golf that is essential to underpinning any technique we use, whether it is a full swing, pitching and chipping or indeed a putting action. It is also one of the skills that seems to get very little mention or consideration when working to improve our golf performance. Usually people commonly refer to rhythm as being fast or slow. These terms should really be used to describe our tempo. Perhaps one of the reasons for this lack of real consideration is it is difficult to quantify or measure rhythm as a whole.
Our putting actions can take many forms and styles. There is a lot of room for individuality while still achieving the basic technical requirements to put well (green reading, distance & direction control). The rest of the game certainly has some room for individual style in the technique but not to the same extent as putting. However there are certain characteristics in really good putters that are quite consistent that are different from the not so good putters. This is the ratio of how long in time it takes to make a backswing in relation to how long it takes the downswing to impact of the ball. This backswing/downswing ratio is one of the key characteristics in our rhythm.
In general terms good putter’s backswings take about 0.6 – 0.8 seconds compared to a downswing time of 0.3 – 0.4 seconds. This backswing time includes the very important transition phase. The thing to note here is the ratio is 2:1 or the backswing takes twice the amount of time as the downswing. (Do not confuse this with the length of the stroke). In the “non-expert” putters the ratio gets closer to 1:1 as the backswing and downswing take equal time closer to 0.5 seconds largely because the transition phase is too quick.
A way you can think about this is that your putting stroke should not be “tick–tock” it should be “tick-tick-tock”or “tick and tock”.
Paul Thompson has been the Fellow PGA Professional at Powerscourt Golf Club in Wicklow since 1995. In addition to providing coaching on-site he also is a coach with The Golfing Union of Ireland. Appointments with Paul can be booked via Powerscourt Golf Club Reception: Tel (01) 204 6033 or the Golf Shop Tel (01) 204 6031. Read more about lessons from Paul Thompson by visiting the Powerscourt Golf Club Website.