One of the most difficult issues that golfers over 50 struggle with more than younger golfers is golf consistency. In this article we will tackle the top five issues golfers can address today to achieve tour-like precision and consistency.
Incidentally, regularly striking the sweet spot is one of the top issues affecting power and distance.
Consistent ball contact is really about executing the correct mechanics. As we have discovered, mechanics are much more difficult to execute when the body is limited by age-related factors. Many golfers struggle with this. Golfers enjoy hitting the ball beautifully one day, and spend the next frustrated wondering where their swing went.
It seems that this is one of the primary reasons golfers fail to drill down and work on mechanics. Because, every now and again, it all comes together and they hit the ball great. They tend to believe they just need to keep practicing instead of exploring the root cause of the swing problem and changing the swing.
Remember that every so often the stars will align and golfers can play a fantastic round of golf with bad mechanics. But there exists little margin for mistakes — all the components must be working perfectly. This is the reason why most golfers have difficulty playing consistently good golf.
In contrast, a golfer with a sound golf swing can even strike the golf ball “well” on an off day when the stars do not align. With good mechanics, they have a greater margin for error.
In summary, if golfers take the time to correct their mechanics, the odds are in their favor and they can still play well, even if they are having a “bad” day. However, the player who does not master the following mechanics will tend to only play well when all their idiosyncrasies are working in perfect timing. The result: no consistency.
1. Let Us Begin With the Quick Tips
The following tips are easy and simple to incorporate.
Quiet the Legs: Regardless of how sound your golf mechanics are, having over-active legs will ruin your golf consistency. Over-active legs are hard to control and very difficult to be consistent with.
Focusing on quiet legs is also one of our top tips to salvage a bad round of golf. Give it a try the next time you are having a difficult time with golf consistency.
The second quick tip is to relax your hands, wrists, and elbows. Again, a flawless golf swing is no match for stiffness in these key joints that control your release into the golf ball.
2. Head and Spine Movement is Much More Difficult to Control in the Senior Golfer
Loss of flexibility is a big issue with senior golfers because in order to maintain their range of motion, they have to stretch. Some do and some don’t. Basically, you want your body to be in a consistent position while you swing the club: You want pure rotation and minimal side-to-side movement and up-and-down movement with your body.
Golfers over 50 struggle with this more due to bad posture. If golfers are unable to keep their mid-back flat in the golf swing, the spine will not be able to rotate very much. When this occurs, most golfers over 50 have to stand up in their backswing and then flex down again in their downswing. PGA pros do this on purpose in the golf swing to add power, but it is very difficult to be consistent with for the average every day golfer.
In addition, golfers over 50 tend to lack enough neck rotation to keep the head still in the backswing. As a result the head rotates and pops up. As far as I am aware, nobody on the planet purposely moves their head very much during the back swing, because it makes consistency extremely difficult.
3. Right Foot Position at the Top of the Backswing
Again, one of the keys to golf consistency is to eliminate excessive and unnecessary moving parts. A key component of this is to prevent backwards swaying in the backswing. Many times swaying is caused by limited right, or trail, leg hip flexibility. Either way, a simple method to control lateral sway is to make sure you feel your body’s weight stay on the inside of your trail foot at the top of the backswing.
If you feel your weight travel to the outside of the foot, then you are likely sacrificing consistency. The age old drill that you can use on the range, is to have a golf ball under the outside of your back foot while you swing and hit balls. Just remember to allow your back foot to come off of the ball as you transition to impact and follow through.
4. Wrist Position at the Point of Impact
At the position of impact, the lead wrist needs to be flat and the trail wrist needs to be “cupped,” or bent. If the lead wrist hinges, also known as “flipping” because the club moves in front of the hands, the club head will bottom out, or reach its lowest point behind the ball instead of in front of the ball as desired. This increases the odds that the golfer hits the ground and takes a divot before hitting the golf ball.
The golfer is also more likely to hit the ball thin because if the the club head reaches its lowest point behind the ball, it may only ascend to the golf ball. As a result, the ball will typically be hit low on the club face missing the sweet spot, or worse, hitting the leading edge of the golf club. When the leading edge hits the ball, it will roll on the ground (topping the ball) or result in low screamers that fly past the target. Either way, it is nearly impossible to be consistent unless your wrists are in the right spot.
5. Weight Distribution from Impact to Follow Through
One characteristic that all great iron players and swing methodologies have in common is that their weight is centered or forward of center at impact and in the follow through.
The reason why your weight should be positioned more forward at impact is the same reason given for wrist positions: to allow the golf club to bottom out after you hit the ball. If you hang back on your back foot, the club head will bottom out before the ball.
This is true with the exception of the driver and some tee shots. With the driver, you want to hit the ball on an ascending path. But you can get away with this with consistency, because the ball is on a tee instead of being on the ground.
Finally, even with the driver, your weight should naturally finish on your lead foot with only the toes of the trail foot touching the ground.
Check these keys for tour-like precision and reliable results!
The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips
While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.
As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.
- Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
- Don’t just “do”…observe. There are two elements of learning something new. The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
- Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
- Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
- Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.
My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.
So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?
More from the Wedge Guy
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- Wedge Guy: There’s no logic to iron fitting
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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things
As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.
For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.
All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.
This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.
So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.
- Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
- Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
- Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
- Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
- This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
- A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
- And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.
So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…
- Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
- You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.
If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.
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- The Wedge Guy: Understanding iron designs, Part 2
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