How seniors can extend their golfing careers for as long as possible.

Story by Scott Blakey + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck

Hilton Head Island resident Dennis McCormac, 56, grew up caddying at a private club in St. Louis and played collegiate golf for Saint Louis University. He owns The Golf Week Amateur Tour and Senior Amateur Tour. The national cham- pionships for both tours is set for October on Hilton Head Island. More than 1,300 golfers are expected to compete in the events over a seven-day period.

Golf is a great activity for seniors to pursue. Not only is it an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors with friends, it’s an exacting test of skill and a chance to remain competitive well into old age. However, for many golfers, there’s a catch. The golf swing itself is a physically demanding movement that requires flexibility and strength, and it can seriously challenge the physical abilities of seniors.

When you swing improperly, it is all too easy to suffer injuries and, if you are in your 70s and 80s, these injuries could put you out of the game for good. Playing poorly can also damage confidence and drive players away from the game, making the problem as much mental as physical.

If you are worried about your game falling away, here are a few ways to play golf safely well into your retirement.


Tips to extend your game:

Promote flexibility with hip rotations and bridges

Flexibility is one of the keys to hitting the ball consistently and well, but maintain- ing your suppleness can be a challenge. An excellent exercise that promotes flexibility is hip rotations from a sitting position. Place a chair in the center of a room and attach a strong exercise band to the wall so that the band is almost taut when you hold it in the chair. Now, rotate your body away from the wall while seated, trying to keep your arms as straight as possible. On the course, sit down, attach the band to your feet and rotate side to side.

Another good idea is to carry out around 20 ‘bridges’ every day. Lie flat on an exercise mat, with your back against the floor. Now turn your toes inwards and bend your knees. Try to lift up your body with your feet, feeling your pelvis rise.

Achieve consistency and ease your back with a no backswing technique

Shortening your backswing isn’t just easier on the back, it also promotes greater consistency, leading to better ball striking. For some coaches, a “no backswing” approach works best. This entails raising the club like a baseball bat into a comfortable position at the peak of the backswing. This position won’t be as long as a conventional backswing, and should feel stable, with the wrists solidly cocked.

At the same time, make sure that the ball is slightly back in your stance, try to tilt your body to the right a little, and be prepared to use the momentum of your right foot through impact to gain extra power.

Now, you just unwind from the top. For many golfers, this tends to lead to a draw, and more solid, longer drives. At first glance it might seem less dynamic than smoothly coiling to the top, but the key point is impact, which is where the no backswing technique really delivers.

Use the right Equipment 

Head down to any good Pro Shop and you will find that the major golf companies know the value of the senior market. Not all of their products are equally useful, but some of them can make a massive difference to your longevity and enjoyment.

When buying a driver, seniors will probably benefit from a flexible shaft and a relatively lightweight head. If you are confident of your consistency, a longer shaft will also lead to faster clubhead speed, which should compensate for any loss of muscle power as you age.

Don’t skimp on your other equipment. Even the humble golf glove can make a difference. Choose a premium glove made from high quality sheepskin. This should help to prevent blisters and damage to your hands, while allowing sweat to evaporate and keeping your hands comfortable.

For seniors, good golf shoes are also vital. Choose a pair with generous padding and a softer, cushioned sole. Good grip will also help to prevent slipping if you golf in challenging conditions.

Eat sensibly and shed your extra pounds 

If you have accumulated a little extra weight in your senior years, there are plenty of reasons to cut back on the calories — and golf is one of them. Golfers with slender frames tend to find it easier to maintain their flexibility into their later years, and physically getting around the course is much easier.

By all means, adopt whatever low calorie diet makes sense for your tastes. However, senior golfers also need to eat properly on the day of their games to provide enough energy to perform well. Try to eat a balanced meal around an hour before tee-time. Include plenty of vegetables, but also some carbohydrates like pasta or potatoes.

Whenever you play, make sure to have plenty of snacks on your cart or in your bag. Don’t just eat them indiscriminately. Make a point of eating a banana or a bag of nuts around the turn, so that your energy levels remain high enough to maintain consistency and concentration.

Adopt the right mental approach 

This is perhaps the most important thing for senior golfers to remember. As you age, your capabilities will change. You might not be able to hit the ball 300 yards and pains may appear after a round that were never a factor before. Bit by bit, each shot becomes that little bit tougher.

The trick is to ensure that these natural facts of life don’t lead to frustration or disillusionment. In some ways, even if you can’t play as dynamically as you used to, you can play smarter. Your course management can improve, and you can take more time over putts and chips to save precious shots.

After all, a 200 yard drive in the middle of the fairway will generally be preferable to a 250 yard slice into the trees. Remember that as you watch younger players booming their drives away. It’s rarely the most pow- erful player who wins, but the one who knows their game the best — and that’s where seniors can triumph.

If you learn your limitations and capabilities, you will stop striving to maximize distance, and start playing your own game instead. Combine this mental approach with the recommendations above, and your game can flourish well into old age.