by Geoff Mangum
You already HAVE a metronome with you on every green you play -- your putter! Just let it swing in your fingertips back and forth to remind yourself of a pro tempo for all your putts.
If you need a reminder of a good smooth tempo in putting, well, hey -- you have one right at your fingertips on every green: your putter! Tests of top PGA Tour putters show they have a very consistent tempo for all strokes of around 1.8 to 1.9 seconds from start to finish. That's pretty close to one full second from top of backstroke to top of follow-through. This is the only section of the total putt motion that corresponds to pendulum-like motion (the putting takeaway starts from a dead stop at address, while a pendulum motion starts from the top of a backstroke).
Did you know that the definition of one second (before atomic clocks) was the amount of time it took for a rod one meter in length to swing from side to side as a pendulum? This is the "meter stick" that was formerly stored in a vault by French physicists as a standard of time. A meter is 39.37 inches in the English measurement system.
As it happens, a "standard" 35-inch putter acts very much like a meter stick when pinched lightly at the top of the grip with thumb and forefinger and allowed to swing like a pendulum. Try it and count out "hickory" as it swings from one side to the other, and then "dickory" as it swings back. The putter swings at about one full cycle every two seconds or from side to side in about one second. That's a metronome setting of 60 beats per minute or 1 beat per second. Nick Price's stroke has been timed at 65 beats per minute -- pretty close to a nice calm heartbeat rate.
A related tempo thought is "one potato, two potato" starting from address. Used with a 2-second total stroke, the takeaway to the top of the backstroke corresponds to "one potato" with most of "potato" being the putter's coasting to a stop at the top. The pause before "two" is the silent falling back of the putter in a gradually accelerating freefall and "two" is the moment of impact right at the bottom of the arc. The second "potato" is the follow-through coasting to a stop, but I just leave that part out and go with "one potato, two" as the tempo thought.
If your putting stroke is one where you allow the putterhead to do the work and use a "hitless" stroke without voluntary muscle action to accelerate the downstroke, then your stroke should conform very closely to the motion pattern of a free-falling pendulum. That's what your putter shows you -- a hitless pendulum tempo. You should also notice that the total time of the pendulum swing does not change even though you make the length of the backstroke shorter or longer -- the longer free fall just gets going faster since it falls further, and so all sizes of strokes take exactly the same time. There is really only ONE hitless tempo, though, because gravity is always exactly the same. Any time you feel like taking a look at a near-perfect putting tempo, just remember that one of the 14 clubs in your bag is a metronome set just right!
For more tips and information on putting, including a free 10,000+ database of putting lore and the Web's only newsletter on putting (also free), visit Geoff's website at http://www.puttingzone.com, or email him directly at email@example.com.