The game of golf is one of the rare sports that people of all age groups can enjoy. It isn’t physically demanding, it is sociable, and many avid golfers even say it is relaxing. Yet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to put in the effort. On the contrary, every golfer needs to maintain cadence, endurance, muscle strength, and stamina to keep distance and control.
However, it is a fact of life that the older we get, the less strength we have. We know this problem all too well at PG Golf Links. When you are over 60 years old, you’ll notice how your golf swing gradually loses power. It has been estimated that golfers might lose up to 30 yards from their most productive years (20-30) by the time they reach their 70s.
How Much Golf Club Distance is Lost with Age?
Research has shown that golfers lose about four yards every ten years with their 7-iron. When they are about 70 years old, they will have lost about 15 yards of driver distance.
While most senior golfers accept the fact as an inevitable process, the question “Why do golfers lose distance with time?” still lingers. And most importantly, it is always followed by “Is there anything golfers can do to still maintain their swing speed and distance?
The problem with distance loss is correlated with the loss of body strength and flexibility. As people get older, the body becomes weaker, and they lose muscle mass.
When golfers become aware that their golf swing isn’t as powerful as it used to be, they tend to exert more power when swinging. However, when trying to apply more power, they usually tend to stiffen their wrists and hit the ball from above. This creates a narrow swing arc that, instead of creating more speed, delivers the opposite effect – the clubhead doesn’t make solid contact with the golf ball.
This general explanation is just the starting point of what happens with senior golfers over time and how that affects their golf swing speed and, consequently, the distance. Let’s take a more in-depth look into the body changes that affect older golfers and how they alter their golf performance.
What Kind of Physical Changes Occur as People Age?
Aging is a process that leads to physical and cognitive transformations, so understanding the process and responding adequately to it means increased wellbeing and a more fulfilling lifestyle.
Among the most significant changes relevant to golfers are those that refer to muscles and bones. Namely, bones lose their density, so they become weaker and begin to shrink, making them susceptible to fracture. Muscles lose their strength, elasticity, and flexibility, affecting people’s balance, coordination, and stability.
Some golfers often suffer from shoulder and back pain due to these major changes, preventing them from performing a full-blown swing and hitting the ball adequately.
Despite feeling well and healthy, other players can’t rotate their bodies as well as they used to do. Because of their physical obstacles, some senior golfers tend to improvise their swing technique to apply more power at the hitting area, resulting in less distance instead of more distance.
Do Senior Golfers Have Psychological Obstacles That Affect Their Golf Swing?
It is not easy to accept that your swing speed isn’t as good as you used to be and that you are slowly but surely losing distance. Many elderly golfers go through a difficult time in their attempt to accept that fact. This directly affects their self-confidence on the golf course, so many come up with various modifications to their swing technique in an attempt to make up for the lost power.
The loss of focus and concentration is another significant factor that affects seniors’ performance, especially when it comes to ball striking. If it is accompanied by vision impairment, they are likely to show poor performance on the course as the eye-hand coordination becomes weaker. This could result in missing the sweet spot and improper contact between the clubhead and the golf ball, leading to less speed.
How Does Equipment Affect Senior Golfers Performance?
A lot! If many years ago it was mostly irrelevant what kind of equipment senior golfers played with, nowadays it makes a big difference. Let’s start with the golf balls. As you might be aware, the market abounds with golf balls made particularly for senior players that optimize speed and distance.
Then comes the driver. Senior drivers are higher-lofted and with a larger sweet spot to making them more forgiving and playable. It has been determined that senior players can add up to ten yards driving distance if they switch to senior driver.
The shaft matters too. Senior golfers are encouraged to replace their stiff shafts with flexible, regular shafts or even use longer driver shafts. In addition, replace the grips with Senior grips so that you get better control and feel of your clubs. When you are a 70-year-old golfer, ball striking is a demanding process, so a more flexible club can help you achieve more club head speed.
Also, when talking about equipment changes, older golfers should consider replacing some of their clubs, too. For example, you can completely get rid of your long irons, even mid-irons to generate backspin for more height and distance. You need a quick, rotating movement, which is challenging to perform.
Get yourself some hybrids, a few fairways woods, and focus more on your short game performance as your approach shots are likely to improve due to increased accuracy and control.
What Can Older Golfers Do to Maintain Flexibility?
Golfers can maintain flexibility as they age by playing and practicing, as well as stretching and practicing yoga. As players get older, maintaining vitality and mobility is imperative for playing golf enjoyably, so regular training exercises are more than recommended.
As an older golfer, you need to maintain the flexibility of your upper body, arms, and shoulders by doing regular workouts. Add to this some frequent walks to preserve your vitality, and you can stay fit enough to maintain your handicap level within your category.
Even PGA Tour players increase the level of their handicap over the years, and they do regular swing training exercises to deliver long drives and optimal ball flight.
To preserve your swing power, some simple tempo and power drills will keep you going in the long run. With proper training on your clubhead speed, your swing arc, you can hope to maintain your distance on a longer run. Older golfers need to remember that they can prolong their golfing enjoyment for many more years if they live a healthy and balanced life.
How Can Golfers Improve Their Swing to Keep Distance?
There are three important things to consider while playing golf: stance, making contact with the ball and staying in a relaxed, natural position. Losing about 10 to 15 yards with your 7-iron, and even up to 30 yards of driver distance, is a natural, often irreversible process. However, a golfer can unintentionally inflict losing additional 15 yards in his/her attempt to make up for the lost power.
The greatest mistake a player can make is to stiffen their arms tight and try to hit the ball as hard as possible.
So, instead of loosening the wrists freely and holding the grip naturally, they hold tight on to the grip and lock up the arms creating a chicken wing. This leads to opening the club face that creates more loft sending the golf ball up and high but with a short distance. But that is a ball flight you would like to see with your short irons, not with your driver or the 7-iron.
What Should a Senior Golfer Be Careful About?
If you are a Senior golfer, reconsider your stance at address. Make sure you can produce a full-blown swing. This means, see if you can freely stretch your arms without leaning forward or pulling inward. The leading arm needs to stretch back out when hitting the ball, while both hands should stretch about three feet after the Senior driver contacts the ball, or about two feet when swinging with the irons.
At address, slightly open your right foot to shift the pressure during the takeaway. When you reach the top of your backswing, don’t try to compensate for the power loss by hitting the ball hard.
This will cause a glancing blow on the back of the ball instead of through the ball. Instead, slightly open your right foot to shift the pressure as you swing and go through the ball, to hit the sweet spot and achieve more speed.