Strategy for the older golfer

Golf is a game of constant striving for improvement.  In my almost daily visits to the local Golf Dome, I frequently walk down the hitting line and talk to golfers, primarily older golfers, and with very few exceptions when asked what they are ‘working on’,  the answers range from:  hitting it longer, hitting it straighter, hitting it more solidly, to getting more spin on the wedges.  They all have something in common, they are trying to improve some aspect of their game.

What does improvement look like for older golfers?

Distance  

Golfers are preoccupied with how far they hit the ball, especially off the tee with a driver.

There is no arguing that distance is an important aspect of the game.  In the minds of many (especially younger players) distance is the most important aspect of the game.

However, distance alone is not all you need if your goal is to lower your scores or  maintain your current scoring level.

As golfers get older, distance decreases more so for some than others.  The question then becomes, how do you maintain a level of play (your handicap) as you get older and the distance inevitably decreases?

Here are some suggestions.

Learn to hit it straighter

Let’s say for the sake of argument you are facing a long par 4, dogleg left.  For those of you who have played Bridges visualize the 6th hole.

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In order to have a reasonable chance of hitting the green in regulation you will need to hit a drive either down the center or favouring the left side of the fairway just past the dogleg.  If you hit to the left you will either be in the trees or blocked out by the trees in terms of a clear shot at the green.  If you hit it to the right you may have a clear shot at the green but from 230 to 240 yards out.  If you hit it down the middle you may still have a 200 yard shot, but it is a clear shot into the green and you have a chance.

There are many situations we all face on the golf course where if we hit it straight we give ourselves a chance at par or bogey at worst, even on longer difficult holes.

Leave your approach shots in the right place

We hear this every week even on the PGA tour, ‘he (or she) missed it in the ‘right spot’.  If hitting the green in a particular situation is not realistic for you, make sure that your ‘miss’ is to a position where you set yourself up for a good approach shot.  If a green has bunkers on both sides (and you are not a great bunker player) leave your miss short, setting yourself up for a makeable chip and putt for par.  If there are severe slopes on one side of the green make sure your approach shot favours the side where there is a flat landing area.

Learn how to chip and putt

Drives and long approach shots require both distance and precision that may be a challenge for older golfers.  There is, however, no reason why the older golfer cannot learn to pitch, chip and putt like the pros.  It does not require strength and agility, it is something we can all learn.  Yet, when we watch amateurs like us practicing and getting ready to play what do we do?  We head to the driving range and hit drivers.

As our distance decreases with age our biggest return on investment (in terms of practice time) comes from improving our short game.

I’ve watched many older golfers and many who are in their early 80’s hit their drives around 200 yards down the middle, hit their approach shot just short of the green, and chip and one or 2 putt for par or bogie.  At the end of the day these players frequently shoot their age.  The reason, they are never in trouble.

Personal Experience

In October of 2006 I had an acute ascending aortic dissection while playing the 5th hole at the Wildewood Club.

Following 3 surgeries and excellent medical care I recovered and was out on the links on opening day the following year.  There was a difference however.  I had lost a tremendous amount of swing speed and 40-50 yards off the tee.

With  practice and exercise I was able to recover around 20 yards of that.  My handicap however soared and I realized I would need to learn to play a new game that was shorter and more precise.

I concentrated on my short game and within a year or so my handicap returned to its previous level and now more than 10 years later I’ve managed to maintain my handicap at the 2006 level, thanks to an improved short game.

 

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New Videos page

I’ve finally got around to working on the blog again and started with the Videos Page by adding 4 videos.  They are all on the topic of ‘hitting the little ball first’ and offer good insights into why we tend to hit behind the ball and provide some excellent drills on how to address the issue.

So click on the Videos page on the top right of the home page and have a look.

Enjoy.

2019 Manitoba Championship Schedule

Golf Manitoba’s Championship schedule although not yet complete as been released indicated those events whose dates and location have been confirmed.

Date Event Venue
May 25 & 26 Match Play Championship Qualifier Portage G C
June 1 & 2
June 3 – 15
Match Play Championship
Minnewasta
Breezy Bend
June 22 & 23 Women’s City & District Championship Carman G & C C
June 22 & 23 Bantam Championship Carman G & C C
July 2 – 4 Women’s Amateur Championship
Men’s Mid – Amateur Championship
Selkirk G & C C
July 6 & 7
July 8 & 9
Men’s Junior Championship Pine Ridge G C
Elmhurst G & C C
July 7
July 8 & 9
Women’s Junior Championship Pine Ridge G C
Elmhurst G & C C
July 29 – 31 Senior Championship Rossmere C C
 

 

Home Course Advantage

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In professional sports be it hockey, baseball, football or basket ball reference is often made to the importance of ‘home field advantage’.

Professional golf is somewhat different in that it is not a team sport (other than conditions such as the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup), it is largely an individual sport and no one player has a distinct home field advantage from week to week.

That got me to thinking about the importance of home course advantage in Leagues such as  the Central Senior Putter League.

I did a breakdown of the the number of times the home team won, lost or the matches were tied since 2016 when I became the League Statistician.  Here are the results as they relate to the home team:

Won Lost Tie
2016 63% 35% 2%
2017 63% 29% 8%
2018 71% 29% 0

*2018 after 5 weeks

I would appear that in this League at least, the home team does have a distinct advantage.

 

 

 

MGA and Golf Canada 2018 Competitive Schedule

2018 CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Date Event Venue Information,
Pairings & Results
May 26 & 27 Match Play Championship Qualifier Winkler G C Info
May 29 Alternate Shot Championsip Southwood G & C C Info
June 2 & 3 
June 4, 7, 8, 9 & 10
Match Play Championship
Teulon G & C C
Pine Ridge G C
Info
June 15 – 17 Future Links, driven by Acura Prairie Championship Portage G C Info
June 18 OR
June 24
Men’s Amateur Championship Qualifier Bel Acres G & C C
Neepawa G & C C
Info
Info
June 23 & 24 Women’s City & District Championship St. Boniface G C Info
July 3 – 5 Women’s Amateur Championship Falcon Lake G C Info
July 3 – 5 Men’s Mid – Amateur Championship Falcon Lake G C Info
July 9 & 10*
July 12 & 13*
Men’s Junior Championship Breezy Bend C C
St. Charles C C
Info
July 10*
July 12 & 13*
Women’s Junior Championship Breezy Bend C C
St. Charles C C
Info
July 16 & 17
July 18 & 19
Nott Autocorp Men’s Amateur Championship Quarry Oaks
Glendale G & C C
Info
July 23 – 25 Men’s Senior Championship Carman G & C C Info
July 23 – 25 Women’s Senior Championship Carman G & C C Info
August 8 & 9 Bantam Championship The Players Course Info
August 11 & 12 Rural Championship Shilo C C Info
August 13 The Players Cup – Qualifer Pine Ridge Golf Club Info
August 21 Women’s Interclub A Championship Selkirk G & C C Info
August 24 Men’s Provincial Interclub Championship Minnewasta G & C C Info
August 27 Men’s Junior Interclub Championship Transcona G C Info
August 30 Women’s Interclub B Championship Transcona G C Info
September 7 Men’s Senior Interclub Championship Neepawa G & C C Info

*The Junior Boys Championship will be held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and the Junior Girls will be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday*

2018 GOLF CANADA CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

 
Date Event Venue
May 29 – June 1 Canadian University/College Championship Chilliwack G C, Chilliwack BC
June 15 – 17 Future Links driven by Acura Prairie Championship
Portage G C, Portage la Prairie MB
July 24 – 27 Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship Marine Drive G C, Vancouver BC
July 30 – August 2 Canadian Junior Boy’s Championship Medicine Hat G & C C, Medicine Hat AB
July 31 – August 3 Canadian Junior Girl’s Championship Beach Grove G C, Tsawwassen BC
August 6 – 9 Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship Duncan Meadows G C &
Pheasant Glen Golf Resort, Duncan/Qualicum Beach BC
August 21 – 24 Canadian Men’s Mid – Amateur Championship Victoria G C, Victoria BC
August 28 – 30 Canadian Women’s Senior Championship Lookout Point C C, Fonthill ON
September 4 – 7 Canadian Men’s Senior Championship Gowan Brae G & C C, Bathurst NB

Proposed Rule Changes (2019)

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Everyone who plays golf is affected to some degree by the official Rules of Golf.

Tour players live or die by the rules and will call penalties on themselves to their own detriment.  Instead of arguing with officials even when they know the official is right (as is so common in other professional sports), professional golfers police themselves.

But what about amateurs?

I’ve played with groups of players at different clubs who play by some pretty lax interpretation of the rules.  For example,  if you hit a ball into the tall fescue, play it as if you had hit your ball in a  hazard.  If you land in a divot in the fairway, just nudge it out and give yourself a decent lie.  If it’s ‘within the leather’, it’s a gimme.  I played with one group where the gimme’s were getting so long that the group organizers put a piece of black electrical tape on each player’s putter to establish what was ‘within the leather’.

Some groups essentially play ‘winter rules’ or lift clean and place throughout the season. The justification used is that tour pros who play on perfectly manicured courses would never be put in a postion where they would have to play off the lies that we mere mortals routinely encounter.  Then there is ‘Mr. I’ve never encountered a lie that can’t be improved’.   I’ve played with golfers who almost on every shot  lift the ball to ostensibly ‘identify’ it.  Invariably, once replaced,  the ball which had formerly been buried deep in the rough is now perched on a nice clump of grass with the back of the ball cleanly exposed.

So, for a lot of  amateurs, unless you play competitive golf, the rules as they exist are not really that restrictive and the proposed rules changes will not have much effect.

A few of the proposed changes however will allow you to do things that under the existing rules even the most wayward golfer could not do without blushing.

Here is a link to a complete list of the proposed changes.

Here is link to videos that explain the proposed rule changes.

Many of the rules changes will be applauded by professional players as the proposed changes tend to reduce ambiguity and eliminate some of the ‘silliness’ from the game.

Amateurs, I suspect, will embrace the changes that favour them and continue to ignore or disregard those they see as ‘silly’.

The proposed changes will go into effect in 2019.

 

The people you meet on the golf course

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals

 

herrera

We have all read stories in books, magazines and blogs that go something like this….. we were on the first hole of (insert name of a golf course) and the starter asked us if we would mind if another couple of guys could join us.

Naturally golfers never say:  “Yes, we would mind.”  Golfers always say:  “Sure, that would be great, send them over.”

Sometimes it turns out that you get to play with some pretty good golfers or other times, real duffers, but most times its an enjoyable experience and you have a great day of golf.

Then there are those rare occasions where it turns out you get to play with famous people.

I had one of those experiences last week.  I was staying with my friend Ken Ross at his winter home in Phoenix and we were booked to play Granite Falls North in Surprise  Arizona. It was just the two of us.  As we were about to tee off the starter walked over and said he just got a message from the Pro Shop.  A couple of guys had turned up without a tee time and would we mind if they joined us?  Naturally we said that would be great.

He sent the two fellows over and because we were a little past our tee time by now, there was little time for in depth introductions.  We all hit our tee shots and the two new members of our group both duck hooked their drives well left and we were off.

As we proceeded down the first fairway I was thinking to myself, that one guy looks very familiar.  Because our introductions had been hurried I said to Ken, “you know, that one guy looks really familiar, what did he say his name was?”  Neither of us knew for certain.

We played on and then on the third hole it clicked:  I knew where I had seen the face before.  It was in the World Series.  I also remembered hearing on the news that the Kansas City Royals were in Arizona for spring training.

After we putted out  I casually said, “do you play any other sport like maybe baseball’?  A big grin crossed his face and he replied, “Yes, I’m Kelvin Herrera, the closer for the Kansas City Royals”.

It became obvious as the round  progressed that Kelvin was relatively new to the game of golf and that he did not have the same control with the driver that he demonstrates when throwing a 100 mile an hour fast ball.  It was equally obvious that although unpolished at golf he possessed tremendous power.  He demonstrated it on the tenth hole when he hit a drive along the left edge of the fairway perhaps half a nine iron past my drive.

He was very pleased and wondered out loud how far the ball had gone.  There was a very large cactus next to the tee box about 10 yards ahead of the spot where we teed off so I said we would go out to his ball and use the range finder to ‘shoot’ the cactus and then add the ten yards.  He hit that ball 320 yards.

All in all we had a great day!

It was rewarding for both Ken and I to shoot a lower score than a young finely tuned professional athlete, realizing of course that if he ever fine tunes his golf game we would be toast.

Ken and I agreed that this summer when we watch the Blue Jays play the Kansas City Royals and it gets to the 9th inning we will be watching a little more closely than usual and thinking back to that day in February  2017 on a golf course in Surprise Arizona.