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Senior golf: Let’s tackle the back nine!

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Editor’s Note: This article is the first in Dennis Clark’s new “Senior Series.” If there’s anyone qualified to write about senior golf and golf instruction, it’s this PGA Master Professional who coaches more than 800 seniors annually. In the series, Clark is collaborating with Darin Hovis, Titleist Performance Institute certified trainer in Naples, Florida. Darin owns and operates Par 4 Fitness and works extensively with senior golfers. He is licensed in athletic training and has certifications through the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) in Medical 3, Junior 2, Power 2, and Fitness. He also holds a Full Body certificate from Active Release Techniques, Boditrak Ground Mechanics, KVest 3D Biomechanics, and Precision Nutrition. 

Lee Trevino once said: “The older I get, the better I used to be!” Even though golf is our game, most all of us have our fisherman tales as well! How good we were is no longer relevant; how good we are is a function of our conditioning.  When we’re young, exercise can be an option, as we age it is a necessity!

So first, we take a good look at where the swing and game is right now. You may get with an instructor to diagnose the current state of the swing and game. I think video is the best way to take a good, close look at what is actually happening (as opposed to what he/she feels might be happening). When the problem has been identified, we need to decide if the issue is physical, that is a limitation due to aging or injury OR, if the swing flaw is an old poor habit (not necessarily related to age).  If we are dealing with a poor habit, we make suggestions for improvement. If the problem is physical, we can address the restrictions with the aid of a fitness professional. I make this distinction because too many of my senior students are too quick to blame age for the problem. Age might be the problem, but poor swing habits are likely involved as well.

Senior golf is the time when we begin to attempt to compensate!  No one, regardless of how good of condition they are in, for their age, can do at 70 what they could at 30. The arc of the swing becomes shorter, the swing speed decreases, we cannot transfer weight as well as we once could, and as we are now learning, we certainly cannot push off the ground as a younger person might. As a result, it is not unusual to throw the clubhead at the ball from the top in an attempt to get back the lost distance; it is not unusual to “hang back” on the rear leg in an attempt to get back lost trajectory, the list goes on and on.

Case in point: I have chronic back issues, as many near my age do. Arthritis and a severely herniated disc create a fair amount of discomfort much of the time. These do not allow me to turn or move as freely as once I did. These issues have forced me to find ways to swing as pain-free as possible, which is a problem. One thing I noticed clearly on my video was a loss of posture in the backswing. It is difficult for me to maintain my posture as I turn, so I raise my torso to make the turn easier.  I could not feel that and was surprised to see it on video. I was a good couple of inches taller at the top of my swing, creating all kinds of issues particularly in my iron play. I now do yoga, stretching and work with Darin Hovis to stay as flexible as my aging body will allow. We can play better and feel better about it, if

  • We know the problem.
  • Are willing to change.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Are willing to improve physical fitness.

Returning to the focus of this series: Let’s start at the beginning. Turning is a critical component is any golf swing. It is critical to approach the ball from inside, and a very often a good turn away with the torso allows one the opportunity to get there. Hitting from inside is difficult, if not impossible, without a good backswing turn. Same goes for turning in the downswing.  Again the path is an arc, from inside and back to inside. The hip turn in the downswing swings the club back to the inside. I have asked Darin Hovis, of Par 4 Fitness to demonstrate a few drills that can increase one’s ability to turn at any age.

Let’s get started. Watch the video here and get to work on your swing issues, and your body as well. Remember, the alternative is to put the clubs in a garage sale, but if this game is in your blood like it’s in mine, I’ll take the exercise alternative!

Check out Dennis Clark’s online video analysis service.

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Tom Lewis

    Jul 3, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Dennis, great stuff! Please continue…my biggest fault is the example you gave where your head at the top of the backswing is at being higher than address…I regularly video my swing and its been eye opening.
    Thanks again.
    Tom

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 4, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      Great, glad you enjoyed it. The problem we are having, if you’ve identified it on video, is generally a physical aging issue. If this was ALWAYS the case, then it’s a swing fault. In either case, the exercises Darin offered are an absolute must!

  2. Darin Hovis

    Jul 3, 2019 at 9:25 am

    This is such great advice from Dennis. Senior golfers often struggle with creating adequate movement in the swing. Therefore, they lose the stretch of the muscles and resulting contraction. Exercise and proper stretching is the easiest way to tap into this lost mobility.

  3. Dennis Clark

    Jul 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Seniors often want golf drills but fail to connect the dots with the exercise link. It is an integral part of senior golf, I’m constantly trying to get my senior students to recognize that.

  4. Ray Bob

    Jul 1, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you for this series. It seems most of the golf instruction, equipment, etc. is focused on younger players. Old golf guys need love, too. Looking forward to learning more.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      Ray, I will run a few of these and see if we generate interest. This first article had limited views and responses, so we’ll have to see…I’m here to help senior golfers IF there is interest. Thx

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Instruction

What should your hips do in the golf swing?

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If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.

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Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind

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Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player

As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?

As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.

I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.

Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?

Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.

The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?

We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.

I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.

The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)

  • Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
  • Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.

The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.

Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.

The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.

Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.

No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.

There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…

  1. We are relaxed
  2. We are having fun
  3. We are just doing

In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!

Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!

Please reach out to me at dmfiscel1482@gmail.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.

 

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Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!

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We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!

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