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A Guide to Golf Fitness for Seniors

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In this series of five articles, I will be offering guidelines for golf-specific physical activity aimed at five different golfing demographics:

This article, the last in my five-part series, focuses on the backbone of the golfing population: seniors.

The main difference between a younger club golfer and a senior golfer from a lifestyle point of view is that the latter normally has a lot more time to play and practice, which is definitely a positive. It also gives them more time to repeat and ingrain poor movements that are less than ideal, however. When combined with the following physical limitations that normally affect seniors, I’ve seen many of their games go into a decline despite having extra time to practice and play.

Most senior golfers face challenges in the following areas:

  • Reduction in mobility: Joints become stiffer and muscles become shorter.
  • Muscle atrophy: Less testosterone in the body leads to a wasting of muscle tissue.
  • Reduction in bone density: Bone diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis lead to increased fragility in the skeletal system.

So what do we prescribe in order to help with these typical issues?

Increasing Mobility

When I train senior golfers, I usually prescribe a combination of spiky ball drills and dynamic stretching that target the following muscles: pectorals, hip flexors, glutes and erector spinae. What I call “soft stretching activities” such as yoga can be extremely beneficial for senior golfers, too.

Here is a mini program for gently increasing hip mobility.

Hip Mobility

Spiky ball release and stretching exercises for the hips.

Muscle Atrophy and Bone Density Reduction

These two issues can both be targeted with the same approach: lifting weights. Contrary to popular belief, strength training is neither dangerous nor detrimental for people of advancing age if done properly. In senior citizens, it has been proven to actually stimulate bone re-growth and significantly reduce the rate of muscular atrophy or wastage.

The best type of strength training is closed-chain, load-bearing exercises such as squats, lunges and push-ups. When injury or lack of mobility restricts the participant from making big movements, however, then open-chain, seated exercises such as seated row, chest/shoulder press and leg press will also help.

female-senior-doing-a-deep-squat-holding-heavy-weights2-400x300

Squats using a kettlebell for load. Adding a lift under the heels helps with ankle mobility issues.

Poor Movement Patterns

What about those swing faults that just seem to be so deeply ingrained that there is no hope of changing? To start, increased strength and mobility will make it easier to get the body and the club head into a new position. To help break down old movement patterns and learn new ones, we prescribe activation and movement drills that “switch on” the correct muscles and mimic the movement that we want them to make in the golf swing. This is generally done using the Ramsay Posture Belt, among other posture and movement training aids.

Here’s a basic set of exercises than help to promote better posture and begin the journey towards more dynamic rotation.

Initial 3 drills

Three of my favorite drills for posture and learning simple dynamic rotation movement patterns. The equipment used is part of the “Golf Posture Training Kit.”

We also encourage the player to hit a few less balls and do a few more drills, thereby practicing less of the old movement and more of the new one. A 5-1 ball-to-drill ratio is recommended, forcing the player to stop after five shots and practice the new movement pattern, in context, right there in the practice area.

For free access to the exercises detailed in the programs above, check out the Golf Fit Pro App. More info, programs, equipment and services are available on the Golf Fit Pro website.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

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1 Comment

  1. Dennis Clark

    Jul 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Great article Nick; I need the senior fitness program!

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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Want to become a better putter this winter? Matt Killen gives us 5 drills to do at home

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COVID-19 had us all locked in at home, wanting to get out and play, and finally, we were able. But what about the winter months in the east? The full swing can be remedied with indoor fitting bays, practice sessions, etc. What can we do to work on our stroke?

Thank god for the Perfect Practice mat, we now have the opportunity to get some reps in over the winter and actually get better.

Matt Killen is a buddy of mine and a swing/putting coach to some of the best players in the world. He was kind enough to give us five drills even he will be doing to get better over the winter

1) 10 Left/10 Right

*10 putts left hand only, 10 putts right hand only.

This drill gets you two different things, the feeling of a proper release (trail hand) and the feeling of a firm lead hand (lead hand). If you watch Tiger on the greens before any round, he hits a ton of putts with his right hand to dial in his roll and release.

2) The Putter Gate

Just like it sounds. Build a gate using legos, coins, cups whatever. Heelside and toe side. To start give yourself some room in between, no need to go Tiger style and leave little to the imagination.

  • 20 Putts from 3 feet (20/20 Goal)
  • 20 Putts from 5 feet (15/20 Goal)
  • 20 Putts from all the way to the back of the PP Mat (12/20 Goal)

To start the goal is 47/60 78%

3) Ball Gate

This time lose the gate around the putter and create a narrow path with golf balls down the line. Once again start realistically.

This drill helps to hone in on the line, speed, roll, and path.

  • 20 Putts from 3 feet (20/20 Goal)
  • 20 Putts from 5 feet (15/20 Goal)
  • 20 Putts from all the way to the back of the PP Mat (10/20 Goal)

To start the goal is 45/60 75%

4) The Accelerator 

Place the putter directly behind the ball and without any backstroke push the ball down the line. Do it from 5 feet to start. It may be a mess at first.

This drill ensures that your eyes and hands are in harmony. It’s also a good way to get that putter head tracking down the line.

  • 30 putts focusing on the roll and speed to start; you make what you make.

5) Mono A Mono

Nothing like healthy competition amongst friends!. Find a buddy that also has a PP Mat and go nuts. Nothing like creating “have to” scenarios to build confidence.

  • Best of 10, 20, 30 whatever. Get in there via FaceTime or live in the house and compete.

 

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Want a mat? Get a mat. They are flying off the shelves, so go to PerfectPractice.Golf to confirm availability!

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