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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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On Spec: The DIY episode talking fitting, and personal launch monitors

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Opinion & Analysis

WRX Insider: How the Callaway tour staff matches up golf ball and irons

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It’s not something that is widely explored. When it comes to the golf ball, we typically prioritize driver numbers, wedge numbers, and feel. In actuality, however, it’s a player’s irons that need to be optimized more than anything. Full shots, 3/4, fades, draws—the shot varietal with irons is all over the map.

So, when testing players, how does the team at Callaway dial in the ball and the irons to work in harmony with each other?

With the new Callaway X Forged and Apex MB just hitting the scene, it seemed like a perfect time to understand how the players on tour fit the ball to the irons and vice versa.

I had a chance to speak with Callaway Golf Ball R&D specialist Nick Yontz and Director of Tour Operations Jacob Davidson on dialing in the ball and the irons to match up with the best players in the world.

JW: How much do you depend on Nick’s expertise throughout the season, especially with new irons (X Forged and Apex MB) having just hit the market?

JD: Any time we launch a new product, it’s essential for the tour team to know how the new product will perform. Nick provides in-depth data on how our golf ball will perform with the new products. When you look at the golf bag, there is one constant variable and that’s the golf ball. Our ultimate goal is to collaborate with the iron engineers and golf ball engineers to design a product that works together to help golfers play better. Nick Yontz is a tremendous resource for our tour team and has worked closely with several major winners in his career. We lean on him weekly for insight into in-depth product performance and future prototype products.

JW: When considering the spin off of the irons for a player like Xander, is he working around one number or are the multiple spin windows to hit?

JD: Spin rates can vary from player to player depending on clubhead delivery and launch numbers. Currently, we’ve worked hard to get Xander’s iron spin rates into a range that we feel allows him to hit a variety of shots to play his best golf.

JW: Let’s look at an LPGA profile for a player like Anne van Dam. Where does Chrome Soft X benefit her the most? 

NY: The Chrome Soft X has blended with Anne’s club set up in a way that she can be an excellent driver of the golf ball, while better controlling iron and wedge spin rates compared to her previous golf ball.

JW: If a player is looking for a higher launch window with the irons, what tweaks are you making, all while honoring the specific DNA of a player’s bag?

JD: There are several different levers we can move in order to raise the launch window. However, in order to determine which lever makes the most sense you have to fully understand the player’s bag. In order to do this, each club has to be studied deeply to know the cause and effects of a change. After we have completed this process, we will look at what options will best fit the player.

JW: As you look at the numbers, where do you see the improvements (gains) with the CS X vs what you saw with previous balls?

NY: Across the board, we’ve seen measurable ball-speed gains on the launch monitor during player testing sessions. It’s exciting for them and us when they reach driver ball speeds (and distances) that they couldn’t before!

JW: On the PGA Tour, is there an overall RPM profile that all players chase or is it player specific?

*question based on general rule of number on club x 1000 RPM IE 7 iron spins at 7000 RPM

JD: Our goal at Callaway is to move all of our staff players into optimal ranges in an iron spin. Our 2020 golf ball and the iron lineup has allowed us to move several players bags into a more optimal range this year. We work closely with the player, instructor, and caddie to constantly find ways to improve performance.

JW: In regards to working with a Champions Tour Player that has gone from Balata into CSX. Is that player still playing out of the same launch windows that he has for years or is he having to adjust for new technology?

NY: There are some differences in modern equipment that we hear from players that have played over multiple decades. The shape of the trajectory is an example. Current trajectories can look flatter or may get up higher sooner in the flight than a balata did. Players who have experienced balata and modern balls also talk about the amount of lateral movement being less today.

JW: Discuss how you guys work together on a week to week basis. What does it look like?

JD: Nick is an excellent resource for the tour team. Each week, we are providing feedback and observations to him from what we are seeing and hearing across all the major tours. Throughout the year, Nick will attend several tour events allowing us to work closely together with players on the range tee or on the golf course.

NY: Jacob and the entire tour team knows each tour player at the deepest level. For example, knowing each player’s swing tendencies and look preferences enhances the raw numbers we collect. Tour players are the best product testers in the world that push us to make better equipment.

JW: Can you both talk to me about the importance of spin with your irons?

JD: It’s much easier to take spin off than to add it from the fairway. The majority of shots that a tour player hits during a round of golf will be off-speed. When you reduce speed, spin also reduces. We’ve found that when we are fitting a player to a golf ball and irons, it’s imperative to pay close attention to how much reduction in spin comes from off-speed shots.

NY: Completely agree with Jacob. While we will do work on the driving range with a player, we need to see how it performs on the golf course in different situations as well (fairway/first-cut/rough, headwind/downwind/morning dew…)

Opinion

It may seem trivial, but to me, this is the secret sauce of really making a bag and fitting work for you. Pay attention to ball speed and launch but mostly spin rates. If the ball doesn’t spin you can’t control it—I don’t care how high it goes or steep it lands.

In the past year, I have focused way more on proper spin with my irons than ever before. What I have found is when 4-PW are in the right spin windows, which for me is around 6,800 RPM with a 7 iron, my iron play has improved dramatically.

See the PGA and LPGA TrackMan averages from 2019 below. At my age and speed, I actually strive to stay right in between the averages for both tours. It’s not only realistic for me but also has actually helped.

 

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