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.

Hole_6_15

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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An offer they could not refuse

At this time of the year, when all the competitions are concluded golfers at times need an incentive to spice up their games or just to keep their interest up.

In my case I’m now north of 110 games played for the season and unless there is something on the line my interest tends to wane and at times I suffer from lapses of concentration on the course.

Playing for something (money) no matter how small the amount can get everyone back in the game.

On the first tee this morning I made my three golf partners and offer the could not refuse.  I proposed that we play my ball against their best ball.  My handicap is 4 and they are all in the 10-12 range, and pretty solid players.  Needless to say they accepted the proposal.

Things did not start out well for me.  I bogied the first hole and lost the next two to birdies.  By the time we got to the 9th hole I was four down, so naturally I used my front nine press and was fortunate to win the 9th hole with a par to cut my front nine losses.

I played better on the back nine and managed several clutch putts to par holes for ties on the back nine.  The long and the short of it was that when we reached 18, I was two up on the back.  Now it was their opportunity to press and they did.  We tied 18 with pars so the press was a tie.

It ended up they won the front and the 18, I won the front nine press and the back nine so no money changed hands.  However, all of us were invested in the game and the outcome for all 18 holes and if was an enjoyable and challenging match.

I’m hoping we do this again.  I fully understand my odds of winning are not great but it was an enjoyable challenge.

The older golfer

As indicated in a previous post I recently participated in the Manitoba Senior Championship.

During the course of the event I played with a number of different golfers as the pairings were adjusted after every round based on scoring, so I was able to observe different players both on the course and in preparation for play.

What follows are some observations that struck me about seniors who play competitive golf:

 

  1.  The love of the game and the dedication to honing ones golf skills.  The vast majority of the participants arrived at the course well in advance of their tee times and spent significant time on the driving range, chipping area and on the putting green.
  2. How the competitive embers are fanned and come to life during a tournament.
  3. How advancements in technology have added to the enjoyment of the game for older golfers.  I overheard more than a few players talk about their new driver or new set of irons, hybrids etc. and how the new clubs have made them longer and more accurate.  Comments like “I’m hitting it longer now than when I was 40”  are common among seniors, and in many cases they are also true.
  4. Golfers willingness to use ‘aids’ to compensate for parts of the body that are simply wearing out.  I observed more than a few players adjusting their lower back supports, strap on knee braces, squeeze into elbow and wrist supports.  I observed several players (myself included) bolster their resolve by  popping  Advil and other anti inflammatory and pain killing drugs, jut to be able to compete.  As well as I walked down the line at the driving range I noticed I was not the only player emanating a strong odour of A535 and other assorted topical  treatments.

It would seem the old adage ‘golfers never die they only lose their balls’ is indeed true.

 

Manitoba Senior Golf Championship

I participated in the Manitoba Senior Golf Championship held at the Glendale Golf and Country Club from July 25-27th 2016.

I placed T9 in the overall Championship, and won the 65+ Super Seniors  category.

Included are some photos taken by Golf Manitoba photographer, Mike Lagace.

For full results click here.

 

Golf Manitoba-Seniors-BP-0346-X3 Golf Manitoba-Seniors-BP-0356-X3 Golf Manitoba-Seniors-BP-0347-1903x1260 160727-Senior Mens- ML-29-X3 13710467_1151932054879535_4033671645199581278_o (1) 160727-Senior Mens- ML-28-X3

The Importance of Tracking Your Game

What do golfers do when they are not scoring well and their handicap starts to climb?   All too often they buy new equipment, a  new driver perhaps, or some wedges, or even a new set of irons.

I’m facing that dilemma right now.

I finished up last year with a handicap of 3.6.  It’s normal at the start of a new season for the handicap to rise a bit, and then stabilize once you’ve played ten or fifteen games.

I’m now between 30 and 40 games into the new season and my handicap has climbed to just below  7 with no sign of slowing its ascent.

For those of you who have read my previous posts you will know that I made some pretty dramatic changes this year, trialing  a set of single length irons.  As my cap kept going up my first thought was that it must be the irons.  I stuck with them for the first 30 rounds and then decided to switch back to my conventional length clubs.

That however did not cure the problem.  I had a few good rounds and then things reverted to normal (the normal for this season that is).

That’s when I decided to look at the stats.  When I enter my scores I use the stats option and track just some of the basics:  fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts, ah yes putts.

I’ve never been a great putter, however I’ve been a steady putter who normally has very few 3 putts.  I had been noticing that I was 3 putting more this year than in the past, and when I looked at the numbers I was taken aback.  My fairways hit and greens in regulation had not changed significantly.  However, my putts per hole changed from 1.8 to just under 2 putts per hole.  This translates into less pars and birdies (I no longer hit it long enough to get many eagles), and more bogies and doubles.

When worked out in terms of  putts per round, the increase in my putting stats corresponds very closely to the rise in my handicap.  So the culprit is not my new irons, or the new driver I’m using this year, it’s putting.

So what do you think happened to the new putter I put in play this year?  If you guessed ‘penalty box’ you are right.  I played a number of rounds with my  trusty putter from last year and a few more with older putters that had been languishing in the penalty box for several years.

The problem is I’m not able to putt well with any putter right now which means its not the putter that’s the problem , its the puttee.

Case in point, last Monday I played a match at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club and my partner and I managed to halve the front 9.  Neither of us were playing particularly well on the back nine but I managed to birdie holes 14 (538 yard par 5) and 15 (565 yard par 5) to go one up on the back.  I followed that up with a 2 putt from short range on 16, and 3 putts on 17 and 18 to lose the back nine.

So what did I do yesterday in the rain?  I went out and practiced.  With an array of putters I hit around 600 putts over a 4 and a half hour period, trying every grip and set-up known to man plus a few others.  The result, inconclusive at best.

And what am I doing today as soon as the rain lets up?

DeChambeau finishes T4 at Harbour Town

As a golfer who has been dabbling with a single plane swing and single length irons for many years I have been following Bryson DeChambeau’s progress closely.

Many have told me that Dechambeau’s success in winning the NCAA  individual title and United States Amateur were ‘flukes’  and that he would turn out to be a ‘flash in the pan’.    Many are not prepared to believe that a golfer using single length irons and a single plane swing could be successful at the professional level.

After DeChambeau’s recent performance at the Masters (low amateur and T21 overall) and T4 at Harbour Town in his first event as a professional, many including big name television commentators covering those events are starting to come around.  They are starting to admit albeit grudgingly, that Dechambeau may be the real thing.

I for one am a firm believer in DeChambeau’s approach to the game and the method he is using to achieve his goal. For those of you who know me you are probably getting tired of hearing me talk about  DeChambeau and my Pinhawk single length irons.

As indicated in a previous post I will be starting this golf season using both single length irons and a single plane swing.

I’ve played 3 rounds with my single length irons so far and the results are encouraging.

As promised in an earlier post, once we get a little further into the season (a least 10 games) I will report back and provide an evaluation of my single length irons.

Dechambeau’s First Masters

Legend
With three rounds of even par 72, and one round of 77  Dechambeau completed his first Masters tied for 21st. place.  His score of +5 was good enough to earn him low amateur honours .
Pictured below are the irons he ended up playing at the Masters.
DeCambeau Masters irons 1 (1)

Many amateurs would not be caught dead playing with a set of irons that look like the irons Bryson Dechambeau used at the Masters this week.

Granted, they are not the prettiest irons I’ve ever seen but more and more I’m coming to the realization that appearance is far less important than performance.

For many of us who are interested in the single length iron and single plane swing concepts, the Master finally provided us with an opportunity to have a good look at Bryson’s clubs and more importantly, his swing.

I still marvel at how accurately, and how far he is able to hit the ball with such and upright swing.  I’ve included links to a number of videos from the Masters that display his swing action from different angles.  Make particular note of his right arm to shaft position even with his longer clubs.  They provide and excellent example of the single plane swing setup.

 

Here are some links to video’s of Dechambeau at the Masters

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016-04-08/zlkp_a_a4yvtfvx2ul6uknp25eag8ohf.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016-04-10/rzryq9caarnpc9ckhawciiy_xcbcwupc.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r4_47959_18.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r3_47959_10.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r3_47959_8.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r2_47959_15.html?promo=vod_players