Counting Tempo Questions

Counting Tempo Questions

Joined: March 14th, 2011, 5:28 pm

March 14th, 2011, 5:39 pm #1

Sir Geoff,

First off, long-time lurker (6 years?), first-time poster. You do such a great job explaining things on the forum that I rarely have an unanswered question. Great site/program!

OK, here's the question(s). Is the conscious counting of the tempo of your stroke the end state or is it a means to an end? The reason I ask is because my touch (distance control) seems to be better when I don't consciously count my backstroke timing, but instead just let it happen and then only think about making the down stroke be a "no-hit" gravity drop. It feels like 1:1 timing to me.

For context, this has only been on the practice green, and I've been practicing this a lot this winter. Its been very interesting and fun. Who would have thought!

I'm not trying to consciously estimate how hard to hit the putt. I understand the problem with that. However, it feels like I'm able to take a long enough backswing and join in with gravity's timing on the down stroke by not counting. Part of me says I've taught myself the correct tempo/timing, and now I can just do it. (Boy, that sure didn't take very long.) That's why I'm wondering if the conscious counting is a learning means to get to a certain end state (not counting), or if it was always intended to be the desired end state (counting).

I got to this point because I don't believe I was very consistent/good at counting my tempo. I've tried only counting the backswing and then letting the down stroke do itself. I've also tried to count the backswing and then the down stroke, to both the bottom of the stroke and/or to end of follow through. I normally use a one potato...two potato for these strokes, but have tried other words that equated to the one-second backswing and another half second to the bottom.

Truthfully, I struggle with the little pause from the completion of the backstroke to the bottom, and don't think I do that part very consistently (when counting). I think this some times results in too short backswings and jerky transitions. Trying to count the bottom also made for some "gassed" strokes as I felt like I got behind in the timing and needed to speed up. (Maybe I'm answering my own question, and need to learn how to count properly?)

Right now, I'm not counting, but just letting the backstroke length/tempo happen and then consciously trying to let the putter fall through impact while keeping the neck steady. It reminds me of the way I think Crenshaw putts/putted in terms of tempo and overall smoothness (ie, a nice pendulum stroke with no jerks or hurried movements). "Just trying to be smooth through the putt like Crenshaw at Augusta."

I guess now that I look at all this background info, I could have just asked "is it possible to have good touch without counting?"

Hopefully, all this makes some sense. I look forward to hearing your thoughts/suggestions/admonishments (if necessary). Thanks.

Best Regards.
Last edited by steveau on March 14th, 2011, 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: February 12th, 2011, 7:09 am

March 17th, 2011, 7:02 pm #2

I don't want to speak for Geoff but I don't think he is into the counting tempo thing. There is some youtube videos of him doing the whistle for tempo. It has really helped my game. You should watch that video so you see what I mean.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

March 21st, 2011, 7:41 am #3

Sir Geoff,

First off, long-time lurker (6 years?), first-time poster. You do such a great job explaining things on the forum that I rarely have an unanswered question. Great site/program!

OK, here's the question(s). Is the conscious counting of the tempo of your stroke the end state or is it a means to an end? The reason I ask is because my touch (distance control) seems to be better when I don't consciously count my backstroke timing, but instead just let it happen and then only think about making the down stroke be a "no-hit" gravity drop. It feels like 1:1 timing to me.

For context, this has only been on the practice green, and I've been practicing this a lot this winter. Its been very interesting and fun. Who would have thought!

I'm not trying to consciously estimate how hard to hit the putt. I understand the problem with that. However, it feels like I'm able to take a long enough backswing and join in with gravity's timing on the down stroke by not counting. Part of me says I've taught myself the correct tempo/timing, and now I can just do it. (Boy, that sure didn't take very long.) That's why I'm wondering if the conscious counting is a learning means to get to a certain end state (not counting), or if it was always intended to be the desired end state (counting).

I got to this point because I don't believe I was very consistent/good at counting my tempo. I've tried only counting the backswing and then letting the down stroke do itself. I've also tried to count the backswing and then the down stroke, to both the bottom of the stroke and/or to end of follow through. I normally use a one potato...two potato for these strokes, but have tried other words that equated to the one-second backswing and another half second to the bottom.

Truthfully, I struggle with the little pause from the completion of the backstroke to the bottom, and don't think I do that part very consistently (when counting). I think this some times results in too short backswings and jerky transitions. Trying to count the bottom also made for some "gassed" strokes as I felt like I got behind in the timing and needed to speed up. (Maybe I'm answering my own question, and need to learn how to count properly?)

Right now, I'm not counting, but just letting the backstroke length/tempo happen and then consciously trying to let the putter fall through impact while keeping the neck steady. It reminds me of the way I think Crenshaw putts/putted in terms of tempo and overall smoothness (ie, a nice pendulum stroke with no jerks or hurried movements). "Just trying to be smooth through the putt like Crenshaw at Augusta."

I guess now that I look at all this background info, I could have just asked "is it possible to have good touch without counting?"

Hopefully, all this makes some sense. I look forward to hearing your thoughts/suggestions/admonishments (if necessary). Thanks.

Best Regards.
Dear steaveau,

Short answer: transition, but okay to go back occasionally ...

Counting adds this to the skill:

"Thinking" rhythm back and thru is inadequate compared to anything that is a physical "doing" of the rhythm/tempo, in the sense that "speaking" or "saying" the count or even "thinking of saying" the count (hearing yourself inside your head only) connects the timing to cardio-pulmonary and muscular rhythm and tempo. That's why humming or whistling is better, as well. So is "breathing" the timing.

Counting is also a distraction that precludes more damaging engagement of random conscious effort in the stroke, and tends to mitigate the ill effects of emotional turmoil. According to Buddhist traditions, mental disequilibrium is mostly froth on the surface of the mind's lake cast up by the winds of random emotion and aimless thoughts occurring in response to the usual desire-driven nature of the meat wheel. Got that? According to neuroscience, there are more entrance holes into the conscious mind's fortification for devilish emotions than there are exits ports allowing the thinking mind to control or manage the wilds of the emotions. Ever see "F Troop" on TV?

The way I express my reading of the brain science, emotions "cause" thoughts and reactions in the mind the way waves cause the froth on the tops of the waves heading into the winds. Mental anxiety just has to be ignored, or reduced somehow, or accepted and tolerated. I reduce it with a) attitude that it's random and emotion-generated for no particularly useful purpose (I'm on a nice park-like golf course! I PAID to be here... etc.), and b) since it's aimless and not a result of my conscious will trying to solve a problem or make a better effort, it's least hurtful to IGNORE it and in any event not ACT in response to it as a way to "solve" or "resolve" the anxiety.

Counting makes you deal with the impatience at the top of the backstroke straight up. This is probably the really transitional aspect to counting, since you want to get past working on this ASAP (actually, safely and soonly, not hurriedly and impermanently). Don't get caught stuck on this problem longer than necessary, but deal with it by seeking to understand better WHY you're impatient and what to do about the CAUSE of the impatience.

The WHY golfers are impatient at the top of the backstroke is the mind's emotional reluctance to just dance. There are two mental fears at the top of the backstroke that are not physically warranted by the body's dancing the stroke: 1) the backstroke SIZE appears to imply (to the worrying mind) too much force at impact unless the ongoing dance timing is taken over and altered; and 2) there being a faster characteristic tempo in the mind than in the body, the mind fears that unless the faster tempo is engaged the thru-stroke force will be insufficient. Well, which is it? This is like a dictator saying to the people: You cannot live without me because the power of the people is too great AND because the people cannot control their power correctly.

The fact is that "the body's got your back". The body knows a lot more about responding effectively to the requirements of the world than does the mind, and so far at least the body doesn't cause a lot of harm in daily life. Counting makes the mind FACE this and eventually learn to "trust" that the body's backstroke SIZE choices are always fine regardless of the emotional / mental reaction. Staying physically intentfull on the space and envisioning / intending the result of the distance control given the space is the best approach, instead of a thinking-worrying "do something different than dance" approach.

Counting makes you smoother physically. The transition ought to be to replace counting with skilled smoothness. If you find yourself preferring to just make the back and thru nicely smooth, instead of counting, that is probably a good direction to head -- simpler, but carries forward the gain of having counted. The emotions and mind dart about checking the body like an insomniac Nun in the orphanage doing bed-checks in the dormitory every hour every night, to make sure no child has his or her eyes open, as the child might be thinking sinful thoughts instead of sleeping the sleep of angels.

The mind will find what it seeks, as this justifies the worry post hoc. So the golfer mentally anxious about the force of the stroke and the timing of the stroke will "find" fluctuations in muscle tone in the arms and hands and elsewhere that "signal impending disaster", so that the only emergency response that can save this body-driven stroke is for the mind to take over again (no surprise there, right?) by CHANGING the timing with changes in the muscle tone "feel" of what's happening.

I call this "thumb sucking" the stroke. Set a sufficient muscle tone and forget it. Don't stand there and "search the feel" like a worried weenie.

With the usual muscle tone set and forgotten, the stroke movement either exhibits smooth timing or not. Fearless putting means "man up and dance" with smooth suavity. So counting helps get past this usual state of affairs where the mind tries to grab back control and finds its "pretext for war" in some consequent-less transgression by the "enemy body" to "justify" a full scale invasion intent on regime change and nothing less. [In Vietnam, this was "the Gulf of Tonkin incident" (Google it, yungsta) and these days it is "crazy dictator's got his hands on WMDs".]

The mind at war with the body is generally not justified by what the body is doing. If there is a one-syllable number like the word "one" that also means "shut up while the backstroke finishes" and then a word like "two" that means "be happy and dance the downstroke" -- let's improvise: "man" and "up" will do nicely for this back and thru counting -- then substitute attitude for counting and see if that's a good transition.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com

Last edited by aceputt on April 3rd, 2011, 9:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: October 13th, 2010, 8:20 am

March 21st, 2011, 9:31 am #4

Geoff,

You mentioned F Troop. Do you ever watch House on TV? You could do that show on golf. Thanks.
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Joined: March 14th, 2011, 5:28 pm

March 25th, 2011, 12:31 am #5

Dear steaveau,

Short answer: transition, but okay to go back occasionally ...

Counting adds this to the skill:

"Thinking" rhythm back and thru is inadequate compared to anything that is a physical "doing" of the rhythm/tempo, in the sense that "speaking" or "saying" the count or even "thinking of saying" the count (hearing yourself inside your head only) connects the timing to cardio-pulmonary and muscular rhythm and tempo. That's why humming or whistling is better, as well. So is "breathing" the timing.

Counting is also a distraction that precludes more damaging engagement of random conscious effort in the stroke, and tends to mitigate the ill effects of emotional turmoil. According to Buddhist traditions, mental disequilibrium is mostly froth on the surface of the mind's lake cast up by the winds of random emotion and aimless thoughts occurring in response to the usual desire-driven nature of the meat wheel. Got that? According to neuroscience, there are more entrance holes into the conscious mind's fortification for devilish emotions than there are exits ports allowing the thinking mind to control or manage the wilds of the emotions. Ever see "F Troop" on TV?

The way I express my reading of the brain science, emotions "cause" thoughts and reactions in the mind the way waves cause the froth on the tops of the waves heading into the winds. Mental anxiety just has to be ignored, or reduced somehow, or accepted and tolerated. I reduce it with a) attitude that it's random and emotion-generated for no particularly useful purpose (I'm on a nice park-like golf course! I PAID to be here... etc.), and b) since it's aimless and not a result of my conscious will trying to solve a problem or make a better effort, it's least hurtful to IGNORE it and in any event not ACT in response to it as a way to "solve" or "resolve" the anxiety.

Counting makes you deal with the impatience at the top of the backstroke straight up. This is probably the really transitional aspect to counting, since you want to get past working on this ASAP (actually, safely and soonly, not hurriedly and impermanently). Don't get caught stuck on this problem longer than necessary, but deal with it by seeking to understand better WHY you're impatient and what to do about the CAUSE of the impatience.

The WHY golfers are impatient at the top of the backstroke is the mind's emotional reluctance to just dance. There are two mental fears at the top of the backstroke that are not physically warranted by the body's dancing the stroke: 1) the backstroke SIZE appears to imply (to the worrying mind) too much force at impact unless the ongoing dance timing is taken over and altered; and 2) there being a faster characteristic tempo in the mind than in the body, the mind fears that unless the faster tempo is engaged the thru-stroke force will be insufficient. Well, which is it? This is like a dictator saying to the people: You cannot live without me because the power of the people is too great AND because the people cannot control their power correctly.

The fact is that "the body's got your back". The body knows a lot more about responding effectively to the requirements of the world than does the mind, and so far at least the body doesn't cause a lot of harm in daily life. Counting makes the mind FACE this and eventually learn to "trust" that the body's backstroke SIZE choices are always fine regardless of the emotional / mental reaction. Staying physically intentfull on the space and envisioning / intending the result of the distance control given the space is the best approach, instead of a thinking-worrying "do something different than dance" approach.

Counting makes you smoother physically. The transition ought to be to replace counting with skilled smoothness. If you find yourself preferring to just make the back and thru nicely smooth, instead of counting, that is probably a good direction to head -- simpler, but carries forward the gain of having counted. The emotions and mind dart about checking the body like an insomniac Nun in the orphanage doing bed-checks in the dormitory every hour every night, to make sure no child has his or her eyes open, as the child might be thinking sinful thoughts instead of sleeping the sleep of angels.

The mind will find what it seeks, as this justifies the worry post hoc. So the golfer mentally anxious about the force of the stroke and the timing of the stroke will "find" fluctuations in muscle tone in the arms and hands and elsewhere that "signal impending disaster", so that the only emergency response that can save this body-driven stroke is for the mind to take over again (no surprise there, right?) by CHANGING the timing with changes in the muscle tone "feel" of what's happening.

I call this "thumb sucking" the stroke. Set a sufficient muscle tone and forget it. Don't stand there and "search the feel" like a worried weenie.

With the usual muscle tone set and forgotten, the stroke movement either exhibits smooth timing or not. Fearless putting means "man up and dance" with smooth suavity. So counting helps get past this usual state of affairs where the mind tries to grab back control and finds its "pretext for war" in some consequent-less transgression by the "enemy body" to "justify" a full scale invasion intent on regime change and nothing less. [In Vietnam, this was "the Gulf of Tonkin incident" (Google it, yungsta) and these days it is "crazy dictator's got his hands on WMDs".]

The mind at war with the body is generally not justified by what the body is doing. If there is a one-syllable number like the word "one" that also means "shut up while the backstroke finishes" and then a word like "two" that means "be happy and dance the downstroke" -- let's improvise: "man" and "up" will do nicely for this back and thru counting -- then substitute attitude for counting and see if that's a good transition.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist
PuttingZone.com

Geoff,

Thanks for the outstanding response! I especially enjoyed the Buddhist reference--I definitely understand the nature of the "monkey mind".

I think you've only got me by about 10 years, so I'm good with all the analogies/examples.

One follow-on question though, SVP. When I get within say 8 feet, and I want to pickup the tempo (but keep the good rhythm), is there a different/modified approach to "just doing it" smoothly on these shorter putts/strokes?

Best Regards, Steve
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

March 26th, 2011, 3:58 pm #6

Yes, Steveau.

Within a certain range (which varies a bit person to person), stroke movements are too short and minor to fully engage the body in MOVEMENT, which the brain understand as changing location or at least challenging and engaging the feet and stance in the action. So little strokes that don't seriously activate the balance-equilibrium system of the body are disregarded as real movement by the brain and body. That defuses the system that allows fine calibration of touch, and sort of leaves the golfer with a vacuum about how things will work out.

I teach that RHYTHM is the two-phase back and thru symmetry that starts and then completes the stroke as the backstroke sets the size and hence the putter head speed and force at impact, but then "sticking to the rhythm" from there thru impact is what "delivers the goods" for touch and force as programmed in by the nonconscious instincts. Deposit [backstroke], Withdrawal and Expenditure [thru-stroke]. Tempo or quickness / slowness of stroke actually sets the SIZE of the backstroke to the appropriate force level (slower tempo results in a longer backstroke for exactly the same force as a quicker tempo and a shorter backstroke size). So WHATEVER tempo you choose to use, you still have to have a symmetrical RHYTHM that gets the backstroke and spends it smoothly and completely. This all means that you can make quicker and shorter and tighter and faster and more "controlled" strokes inside this critical range without fear of blowing the ball past the hole or "nice-ing" one up there too carefully and leaving the SOB choke-short. Change the tempo, but don't fear the smooth rhythm, whatever the tempo, Try this in the 10-foot and in range with different tempos and the same-as-ever smooth back and the rhythm to observe how your rhythm keeps your touch safe and effective even though the tempo speeds up.

Cheers!

Geoff Mangum
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