Tom Watson’s great finish in the British Open in 2010 taught us something: You can play great golf at any age. Some seniors I know have single digit golf handicaps and compete favorably in their club championships. And they continue to play challenging courses whenever they can. But to play well after 50, you must make some adjustments. The biggest concerns flexibility.
Senior golfers lose flexibility in their younger years. This is a fact. That means they don’t hit the ball as far as they once did—either off the tee or from the fairway. As a result, its important that seniors master their short game to achieve low scores or keep their golf handicaps intact. Below are some golf tips and drills to help seniors master the short game.
Make Solid Contact On Chips
Good chipping can turn three strokes into two. But to chip well you must make solid contact—something older golfers often struggle with. Memories of past failures often crop up when playing, making them hesitant and unsure. Try this drill often used in golf lessons to improve contact. Find a piece of wood that’s recently painted. Or paint one yourself. Rest a ball on top of the wood, grip down on your club enough to match the board’s height, and then hit chips so that the bounce of your club rides the board. The ball will pop up and the bounce will have some chip on it if you look at it.
Pre-Set Your Wrist
As we get older we lose power. We see it all the time in our golf lessons. To compensate, try pre-setting your wrists when practicing. At address, keep your lead arm aimed at the ball and hinge your wrists fully, even if you have to strengthen your grip and cup your left wrist. From there, swing the club back normally. This adjustment adds leverage to your swing to make up for a shorter backswing, the result of decreased flexibility. Feel the wrist set when you go back to your regular swing.
Beat The Pitching Yips
The yips can strike anytime, as well tell students in our golf instruction sessions, and you can get them with any club you use. To avoid the yips when pitching, try this old trick: Rotate the clubface open during your backswing. Keep your hands quiet through the swing. Imagine an arrow on your clubface. When you take the club back, make sure the arrow is pointing to the sky. Now rotate your body—not your hands—and propel the club through. The trick keeps the clubface open and sends the ball up.
Perfect Your Lag Putting
This is another phase of the game that we emphasize in golf instruction sessions with seniors. Long putts are especially challenging for seniors because our eyesight tends to go as we get older. It’s hard to make an accurate putt if you can’t focus on where you want the ball to stop. Practice this drill popular in golf lessons: Place a club two feet behind the hole as a backstop. Hit long putts from 30 feet or so away. Your goal is to make the putt. But if you don’t, make sure your ball stops between the hold and the club.
The Ladder drill is another way to sharpen lag putting: Find an uphill putt. Now pace off about 15 feet. Put a tee there. Now pace three more feet and put two tees at this spot, one on either side of you. Place the tees about three feet apart. Do this every three feet until you get to the hole. The grid your create will look like a ladder. Now go back to the beginning and hit some putts. Try to get the putts to stop just between the rungs of the ladder.
Once you finish practicing uphill putts, turn around and try the drill going down hill. Keep practicing the drill until you’ve mastered your lag putting. If you’re a senor you’ll be surprised how many strokes you’ll save on your scorecard and your golf handicap by using our golf tips and the drills described above.