At first glance, I’m sure you’re questioning the title of this blog post. What does 2 seemingly obscure references to non-golfers have to do with golf? Let me explain.
Classical Music and Golf?
Sergei Rachmaninoff is arguably one of the most prolific composers of the early 20th century. Some of his masterpieces have been used as the basis for many popular music songs since the early 1940s. His melodic sense of timing combined with his superior sense for orchestral balance is masterful. While in high school, I was introduced to one of his more popular pieces while working as a volunteer at a classical music radio station. His Symphony #2 in E Minor Op. 27, particularly the 3rd movement, provides one of the more melodic musical phrases of all time. I use the refrain of this adagio as a tempo driven method of keeping my game in check. I always know if I hum this melody, my trusted ability to make good swings will always be there. Especially when faced with adversity or needing an increased amount of focus upon any shot.
King Friday’s Security
There’s many generations of young people who were introduced to Fred Rogers. I always experienced a sense of security watching Mr. Rogers, as he walked us through his make-believe neighborhood. His honesty and genuine concern for the education and confidence of young people shows throughout every episode of his 50+ year career. But it’s the opening song of the show that also provides my golf game a sense of security. When I’m down or mad at myself before or during a round of golf, I can always count on the “beautiful day in the neighborhood” to lighten my perspective. In turn, the theme song of Mr. Rogers neighborhood has always provided a sense of happy security of my golf skills.
So, what does Rachmaninoff and Mr. Rogers have in common?
Timing, Tempo, and BPM
It is by sheer accident that the two songs I mention continue to play an integral role in the success of my golf game. Before being exposed to Rachmaninoff, Eric Carmen’s interpretation of the lyrical refrain of the 3rd movement has always been stuck in my head. Not the words, the melody. And my mother always told me, you can trust Mr. Rogers. For whatever reason, these two songs are my “golf security blankets”. Also, by sheer accident, each is approximately 67 beats per minute. Which coincides with the drummer in my head that I march to daily.
Called “BPM” for short within the recording industry, I could argue that all of us have our own drummer that we march to each day. And it’s the BPM that your drummer produces that allows you to function within a successful tempo daily. It’s that same tempo that allows you to swing more freely, with less mechanical distractions.
Let’s explore how you too can find your perfect melody that matches your drummer’s BPM.
Do you have a Song Permanently in Etched in your Brain?
Including myself, I know a lot of people who hum a song in their brain throughout the course of any day. Sometimes that song is a favorite. And other times it’s a popular song of the time we live in. Regardless of when the song made its debut, I bet you find yourself humming the same song most of the time. It’s no coincidence. No matter what you might be experiencing or where you might be, this one song seems to stick in your head.
Chances are this one song matches your internal rhythms. Commonly known as “Circadian Rhythms”, your internal drummer strokes a day long cadence for you. You make decisions by this cadence. You decide what to eat and drink by this tempo. And it’s this internal metronome that tells you it’s time to call it a day. It’s also likely this one song could be the one thing you can go back to when your golf swing falls off the wagon.
What is My Proper BPM?
Everybody does march to the beat of a different drummer. It’s a phrase we learned early in our life. There are scientific ways to measure your circadian rhythms. But there is a simpler way of understanding and determining the cadence tempo of your daily life. It’s in the way you walk.
Have you ever noticed the length of your walking gait? And have you ever determined the distance between each footstep? Or how many footsteps happen within a 10 second period? If you’re a people watcher, you’ve probably noticed how everybody walks in a different way. This is the most noticeable way of understanding the drummer each person marches to.
The simple way of determining the cadence to your drummer is by counting the number of steps you make within 10 seconds. Count the number of steps and then multiply that number by 6. This is a simplistic yet effective way to find your BPM. Be sure to carry out this experiment several times and average your findings. We want an average not an anomaly. The average is a more accurate assumption of the tempo in which you conduct your daily life. And I bet your favorite song is 99% in tempo with the BPM average of your strides.
How do I Integrate my Drummer into My Golf Game?
You’ve probably seen some videos about using a metronome when you putt. Or when you swing. This is a way to swing at a steady and consistent tempo. But how do you know the correct setting of the metronome that best represents your BPM? This is where those songs you hum daily come into play.
First, start humming your favorite song. As you do so put a club in your hand without a ball in front of you. Make some practice swings as you hum your song. Does your swing match up with the song’s tempo? If it does then you found a good marriage of tempo and your swing. If it doesn’t, that’s OK. Instead of speeding up or slowing down your favorite song, choose another song that might better match your swing tempo. There’s probably another song that you like that’s either slightly slower or slightly faster in tempo than the first one you chose.
Second, start practicing this in your backyard or in your garage with your eyes closed. Closing your eyes creates a heightened sense of kinesthetic awareness. In conjunction with you humming your song, you’ll feel the tempo within the melodic rhythm of your song and swing.
It also provides you with the absolute point in your song that impact occurs. This most likely will be a crescendo of the song you’re humming. I show you how a crescendo can match impact within this YouTube video aptly named the same as this blog post.
Third, let’s go out and practice this. Your tempo should be the same for all golf clubs not just one. As you practice humming and hitting golf balls, pay attention to which clubs best match the songs tempo. If you’ve been practicing this at home with just one club, don’t be surprised if your other club are just a little off tempo. For example, if you’ve been swinging just your driver your lower irons might feel just a little slower in tempo. That’s not uncommon. The opposite can be said if you practiced with your shorter irons at home. You’ll most likely feel like your driver swing is faster than the song you’re humming. Why? Because you’ve trained your brain, body, and equilibrium to balance only one length of club. That’s why it is important to practice without golf balls, with all clubs, to find your tempo.
Now how do I Use this Method of Tempo as I Play Golf?
For me, humming either of the songs I mentioned earlier in this blog post is something I consciously choose to do before ever setting out to the golf course. It’s essential to understand that your tempo is something consistent within your daily activities. Not just golf. You can’t expect to function at one tempo on the course and function with another tempo off the course.
My suggestion is putting your song in your head as you drive to the course. Hopefully this provides you a sense of calm no matter the traffic conditions. Be honest with yourself, when was the last time you stepped onto the golf course mad because traffic conditions didn’t provide you what you expected on the way to the course?
Next, have you used your song while warming up. As you’re stretching? As you’re doing other exercises to prepare to play? Humming your song will provide you a sense of security at the practice facility. When you see someone wearing earbuds as they prepare to play, their most likely listening to something that best represents the drummer within them. It’s this secure tempo which gets you through the 4+ hours of your round. It’s also what allows you to accept your score no matter the number.
Use your song at the range as well as the putting green. Doing so should allow you to take your mind off the technical items of each aspect of your game so you swing freely. Start understanding while practicing how the technical aspects of each swing fall into place within the melody of the song you hum. And trust the weaving of song, tempo, and technicality to provide you the consistent swing you were looking for.
Be sure to go through your pre-shot routine using your song. It’s not just a way of freeing your swing. It’s a way of setting your entire pre-shot routine.
Making your decisions on the course to a cadence is critical to the success of your decisions. When faced with adversity, your tempo will naturally speed up. Being able to go back to the security of your song establishes the calm necessary to make logical and rational decisions about each shot. It also slows down your decision-making tempo, allowing for more rational decisions to happen.
Does Your Crescendo Tempo Match Impact Tempo?
As I coach clients to discover their tempo, I always ask my client if impact occurred at the same time the crescendo occurred within the melody of their chosen song. Why is this important? The anchor of impact is a crescendo of sorts. After all, the moment of impact is also the moment of truth. If you can match your impact position to the crescendo of your song, you’re most likely swinging freer. And in turn, a more synchronized impact position is consistently occurring.
I want to re-emphasize that you should never speed up or slow down your song to have the crescendo of your song match your impact position. You flirt with disaster doing so. Doing so is a “failure mechanism”. It might be better to find another part of your song that allows a crescendo to match impact. If this can’t happen, then maybe it’s time to find another melody to hum.
I can’t say enough about great tempo in a golfer. Tempo is the glue that holds everything together within your swing. It is also the mechanism that fosters a golfing experience. From the moment you get in the car to go to the course, to the time when you sign your scorecard, tempo is the common thread.
Finding your correct tempo is easier than you believe. And you must believe in the tempo you live by off the course to supply the success you desire on the course. Staying consistent with this tempo is of utmost importance. Making a conscious effort to keep tempo consistent is important. From the time you arrive at the course, through your pre-shot routines while practicing, and as you prepare for each problem you solve on the golf course.
Rachmaninoff may not be the composer that wrote your favorite song. And Mr. Rogers might have scared you at first when you were young. But that does not mean that you can’t find the right song from your past experiences. As you can see by my examples, being open minded with your song selection can assist with not only your tempo, but your creativity as well. Find the right tempo that best matches the tempo of your best swings.
When faced with adversity, you can rely on the fact that your drummer will consistently provide the beat you need to march through the weeds of your game. You just need to go about your business on the course trusting your internal drummer. It’s much easier to make great decisions on the course while moving to a consistent tempo, versus making rushed and ill-fated attempts to be a superhero. It’s also easier to make great swings too.
Stay patient with your tempo. Your tempo is always patient with you.