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7 tips for senior golfers to play better and enjoy the game longer

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Have you ever played a golf course and remembered where you used to hit the ball on certain holes? Have you ever gotten to a 360-yard par-4 and recalled when you used to lick your chops because you knew a little flip wedge for your second was ahead? Ever made shooting your age your next big goal? If you have, welcome to golf’s back nine, the time when you keep seeking improvement knowing full well it will never be what it once was.

Aging is another vivid example of the paradoxical beast that lies at the heart of our game. If we’re totally honest, we admit we can’t do anything as well as we did 25-30 years ago. Yet a little voice never far from our golf ears keeps whispering, “If you just move the ball in your stance and adjust your grip, you will hit it solid again.” That’s when we need to be honest and ask, “What does solid mean at 65-70-75 years old?” It certainly isn’t solid like it was at 35 years old, but it may be more solid than the last shot, or yesterday. And as we’ll see, it just might be solid enough for the home stretch. So we keep playing and practicing in a search for golf’s version of a fountain of youth.

If you are, like this author, closer to the 18th green than the first tee, here are 7 golden nuggets for the golden years:

1. Forget how you used to play

Stay present and take what the game gives you now, here, today. If that’s 210 off the tee, get your fairway woods and hybrids out and do the best you can with your inevitably longer approach.

2. Work on your scoring game

If aging has robbed you of flexibility and strength, it does not have to affect your game from 100 yards in. Seniors need to chip and putt more than any other age group.

3. Yoga and Pilates

If you think we’re old, we are a babe in the woods compared to these ancient disciplines. The mind/body connection is vital for seniors. And… the results speak for themselves! Staying as flexible and as strong as you can for as long as you can is vital for senior golf. Oh, and walk and carry whenever possible!

4. Get properly fitted

Not only do we play senior golf dreaming of yesteryear, male seniors often let testosterone affect their game. I get sooo many seniors coming to see me who are ill-fitted for their equipment, or more accurately, using equipment that once fit their game85-90 mph clubhead speed does not likely require a stiff shaft, 9 degrees of loft or 75 grams of weight to achieve proper launch and landing conditions. Good senior golf demands brutal honesty with yourself.

5. Consider swing “adjustments,” not “new swings”

I don’t want to be a bearer of bad tidings here, but as a teacher of many years, I know this much: The swing you’ve had for oh so many years is not going to change. At least not very much. The does not mean it can’t be made more effective. I “tweak” seniors, not break them down.

6. Play forward tees

I’m a club professional, and I was a fairly decent player once. At 70 years young, I am proud to say that I play white tees measuring no more than 6300 yards. And in a few years, I’ll likely move up again. It’s just a fact of life and denying it is futile.

7. Check your fundamentals

Just because a certain grip, posture or ball position was effective once, as we age, all these may need adjustments from time to time. Swings get shorter, slower, narrow, etc. And as they do, we have to allow for these things and find new ways to complement the “senior swing.”

The alternative to all of the above is a garage sale. And as long I can swing a golf club, I will be doing so. If I want to enjoy the game, I’ll do so with lighter clubs, from shorter tees, chipping and putting my way into the hole. We’d all like to turn back the clock, but the last time that happened was, uh, never.

Enjoy the back nine. I know I am.

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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 [email protected]

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Greta James

    Jun 2, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you so much for informing me that a golfer’s swing can change as they age, so be sure to check grip and posture to make adjustments as needed. My dad has loved watching golfing and is now trying to become a great golfer. However, he mentioned that he is having a hard time reading the green. I wonder if there is a technology that could help him with this skill to improve his amateur game.

  2. A. Commoner

    Sep 21, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Dennis Clark deserves many accolades for his work. But if an experienced golfer with a functioning brain can’t come up with these “tips” on his own, then he needs to give it up.

  3. don Ho

    Sep 19, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    All great comments but to add to article, #8 understand the state of the art equipment thats coming out these days, quite remarkable. You have the correct swingweight, shaft weight and flex, a softer ball, stronger lofts on irons, it can literally take 10 years off your game. I play with all ages, and for the most part they are trying to keep up with me. I have nothing to prove, I was never a club pro etc. but quite consistent, I remember hitting the TM Burner Bubble, Stiff, 10.5, 90 gram shaft 300 yds at least twice a round. Golf is the most fun anyone over 50 can have without “killing themselves”, ie you not going to drown, get thrown down a mountain, take two weeks to recover (marathon running). Its always a good day when I’m golfing.

    • ogo

      Sep 20, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      You are exceptionally good, while the rest of us fear regressing into the 90’s and bogey-plus golf. I just carry fewer clubs and manage the course with shorter shots regardless of the course distances. Control is everything.

  4. steven

    Sep 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Found a mint used PING G2 driver, 15.5º loft, 400cc with a stock PING TFC 100D Soft Regular shaft for a total length of 47 inches from sole to butt. Thank goodness I have a smooth 80mph swing and 200+yard drive. I can crank it faster but the shaft is too soft. I will keep this beauty in my bag until I stop. I’m 79 y.o., 6’4″, 170lbs strong and I still play singles tennis in the winter. Btw, the driver COR exceeds 0.83 because the loft was greater than 15º.

  5. Bob Jones

    Sep 19, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Ken Venturi said when being interviewed by David Feherty and looking at a picture of his young man’s swing, “I’d give anything to swing like that again. But I swung like that once, so I guess that’s enough.”

    My game is the same as it’s always been–very straight and good around the green. Except now that I’m 69 it’s somewhat shorter, but that’s OK. I move up to the next set of tees and score just as well and have just as much fun.

    • ShSh

      Sep 20, 2018 at 2:35 am

      You old folks shouldn’t even be on a website like this sheesh

  6. Tom

    Sep 19, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    I might suggest one additional tip, carry a flask of “swing oil” and take a nip every 3rd hole or so…..

    • shawn

      Sep 20, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      … to drown your swing sorrows??!!!

    • James

      Sep 22, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      I carry a canister of “Italian Sports Drink”. The golf course doesn’t know but my friends do. Pinot Grigio. Zero sips for a bogey or worse. 1 sip for a par. 2 sips for a birdie. Eagle? I empty the canister!

  7. Jorge Nigrete

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Awesome advice for senior golfers who want to stay involved and aware of their capabilities as they age.

    • shawn

      Sep 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      … but ‘golfers’ are living a delusion on the golf course!!!

  8. Scheiss

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I’m 2 years away from 50. I’m still playing the back tees with the kids, most of the courses we play are at or over 7000 yards. I still play to scratch and give the young ones a good game.
    As soon as I turn 50, I am moving up to the next tee, and yet I will not be giving any shots to those same kids. They can suck it lol
    So I will be playing from tees that are anywhere from 6500 to 6800 on the big courses. On the shorter courses, the kids are at the 6500 on the back tees and the next tees are at about 6000. Reasonable.
    That’s what makes this game so great.
    If you can’t deal with your ego being crushed, you picked the wrong game. Go fishing or something and leave us real gamers alone, because you clearly don’t appreciate this game for its nuances

    • Acemandrake

      Sep 19, 2018 at 4:17 pm

      The “ego crusher” comment was meant to be humorous.

      I appreciate the nuances of the game & will be sure to leave “real gamers alone”. 🙂

    • oppie

      Sep 21, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      …. and a good “scheiss” to you …. 🙁

  9. LD

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Really good article. Thanks for the great information.

  10. Jim K

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    I fully agree that as golfers get older and shorter off the tee they should move up to forward tees. Unfortunately, too many golf courses fail to offer reasonable teeing options. I’ve seen way too many courses where the whites are 6300yds and the next tees up are 5500. One is too long and the other too short.

    • Acemandrake

      Sep 19, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      This is the truth.

      Given such a choice I will play the longer course but will adjust my expectations (ie: Bogey is the new par!).

      • ogo

        Sep 20, 2018 at 5:43 pm

        Then you needn’t carry a driver and be happy with 3-wood driving distances. In fact, you could prolly play the course in bogey golf with a 175 yard hybrid as your longest club. Try it.. you’ll be surprised… if you can manage properly.

    • Stan

      Sep 19, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Can not agree more. It seems I’m too often kidded about no more senior tees for you from my younger playing partners or hitting nothing but 3 wood or 3 hybrid while they’re hitting medium or short irons to reach the green. Right for me (at age 70) seems to be 5800 to 6000 yards, not 5500 or 6300.

  11. Myron miller

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    A lot of excellent suggestions. I’m in my 70s and most assuredly don’t hit it as far or play as well. but I still have a decent short game, can chip and putt exceptionally and that can keep my scores down. And i can’t emphasize the use of game management, woods and laying up in strategic distances and positions. makes the game a lot easier. Sometimes I wish I’d learned these much earlier.

    Adapted swing to body issues rather than new swing.

    Could easily overpower course when younger now i sneak up on them.

  12. Acemandrake

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    All good points; especially playing forward tees (still an ego crusher). Also, there’s no excuse for not improving the short game.

    Tip #1 (“Forget how you use to play”) is easier said than done…I have a 20 year old mind & a 60 year old body 🙂

  13. joro

    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Good info, describes me to a tee. I used to ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, right says my buddy, used to. This is now, enjoy it while you still can. Would a Lobotomy help?

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Joe Legendre – Legend Golf Company

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In Episode 26 Glenn is back and we interview the owner of Legend Golf Company, Joe Legendre.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 141: The (golf) show must go on!

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Host Michael Williams has breaking news on The PGA Merchandise Show going virtual in 2021 from Marc Simon of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Also features John Buboltz with the latest putters and irons from Argolf.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Ball rollback isn’t the right move to combat “The Golfer of Tomorrow”

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The announcing crew at the 2020 U.S. Open seemed obsessed with “the bombers”—players who drove the ball extreme distances with little regard for the occasional tee shot into the rough. TV has selected Bryson DeChambeau as their representative, given his length and victory.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the industry sources had to say. I can’t say it’s unanimous, because I haven’t seen everything, but the theme is: “Get Ready for The Golfer of Tomorrow”

  • 350-yard carry
  • Clubhead speed which tears through the rough allowing the ball to launch high and carry to the green
  • The ‘new’ instructor who teaches distance be it ground up or whatever new method is used
  • Gym sessions producing athletes who look more like football players
  • And last, a whole new shelf of steroids for golf

At the same time the USGA and its organizational allies are planning meetings focusing on not if the ball will be rolled back, but when—clearly, influenced by visual evidence from a great Winged Foot course in our national championship.

Let’s look deeper!

A hypothetical: go back a few months. You are on the planning committee for the U.S. Open to be held at Winged Foot, one of America’s great venues. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no galleries, something never experienced at a USGA major golf event. I repeat, your committee is planning for the U.S. Open. That implies “Open Rough” a term that is significant on its own. You don’t play from Open Rough, you escape…maybe.

The nature of Open Rough is a thick chunky base with long tendrils reaching skyward. These make it very difficult to find your ball in the best of circumstances and when attempting to advance these tendrils wrap themselves around your hosel closing the face, sending your ball deeper into hostile territory. That’s if you can even find it, Open rough has “disappeared” many balls over the years and done so within full view of gallery spectators aiding course marshals. The rule of thumb for competitors has always been to find the most reasonable patch of fairway and get out.

But this is the year of COVID-19. No galleries. Marshals, but relatively few because of no galleries. Now, considering that normal U.S. Open rough will produce many searches where marshals are important, the shortage of them will cause endless searches—which don’t make for great TV viewing. So, a decision is made, cut the rough down so shots can be found. Still in the rough but sitting on the chunky base and very often can be played. A tough call for the purist but an objective economic evaluation leaves no choice.

The announcers regale us with astonishing distances and swing speeds that allow escape from Open Rough that used to be impossible! The golf publications jump on this theme and predict that the Golfer of Tomorrow will be “DeChambeau-like” not sweet swingers but physical hulks rewriting the book on distance strongly influenced by no fear of the rough.

My point here is those publications and instructors, jumping on the “longer and slightly crooked is better” bandwagon have added 2+2 and gotten 5 when using the 2020 U.S. Open as a premise.

DeChambeau is a great and powerful player, however, I don’t think he’s known for his putting. Now I may have dozed off but I don’t remember him being widely praised for his putting. He should have been, it was terrific, probably influenced his score! He is our National Champion, an unsurpassable honor. But his style has me betting that the USGA is working on dates to discuss changing the golf ball, as in making it shorter.

I’m 100% against such a move. Golf is a game where amateurs can go to the same course play the same clubs and given a huge difference in skill achieve some measure of affiliation with the pros. A birdie is a birdie, not a long or short ball birdie. From a business perspective, the overwhelming majority of those golfers financially supporting golf are over 50. And we want them to hit it shorter?

Well, Mr. Adams what would you do? I know zero about golf ball manufacturing, but keeping the distance the same I’d change the dimples to increase curvature—just enough so it doesn’t affect slower swings that much but very high swing speeds so it’s in the player’s head

More thoughts. As an admitted TV viewer, get rid of those yardage books. Fine for practice rounds but when the bell rings it should be player and caddie, not an “on green” conference. What’s next, a staff meeting?

I’ll conclude with a note to the PGA Tour and, importantly, an admonition. To the PGA Tour: The minute a tee goes into the ground on #1 every player is on the clock. Stroke penalties, not fines, will get their attention.

To the rest of the golfing world: Let’s not blindly pursue the Golfer of Tomorrow concept without considerably deeper study.

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