The baby boomer generation has mostly passed the age of 50, and golf instruction for senior golfers and golfers over 50 is becoming much more popular. Everybody is weighing in with their thoughts, opinions, and advice. Some of it is good…very good!
But be aware that many instructors that do not specialize or understand the golfer over 50, will be writing articles and giving advice simply because the demand is increasing so quickly. Not because they fully understand the demographic.
So many of todays golfers are over 50 that the instruction is getting better and better. Jim McLean is, of course, a world renowned instructor who knows golf and gets results. He wrote a very good article recently but I wanted to fill in the gaps and disagree with a few, very important points.
1. At Address Play the Ball Back, and Tilt Your Body to the Right
“Less flexible players usually need more distance, so they should learn to hit a draw. To accomplish that, they should move the ball back a couple of inches and drop the right foot away from the target line, creating a closed stance. This will facilitate body turn on the backswing and set up an inside approach into impact. A little more spine tilt away from the target will also help the windup.”
Analysis: Golfers over 50 with poor flexibility should play the ball a little back in their stance to help hit a draw. Tilting the body away can help with this as well but you may find that tilting the body is difficult if you are are not very flexible.
As I mentioned in a previous article, playing the ball back in your stance and hitting a draw is not always the shot that will provide you with the most distance.
If you play golf up north like I do, you will play in conditions where the fairways are too soft to allow for much roll after your ball hits the ground. In these conditions, you want to hit a ball that will carry farther in air. So keeping the ball forward for a slightly higher trajectory may be a better play.
2. TO THE TOP LET THE SWINGING MOTION PULL YOUR BODY BACK
“A little lateral motion off the ball, with the head moving freely to the right, creates more windup. That said, this player should focus on extending the arms back and making a full wrist hinge. There should be a distinct sweeping motion to start the backswing, with the arms pulling the body into rotation and weight to the right side. This player needs more motion overall to increase power.”
Analysis: This is a tough call. Allowing your upper body to sway off the ball is probably going to hurt your consistency. So you have to decide: is power or consistency more important for the shot you are playing.
If you are going to follow this advice, I would only use it with the driver. Hitting the driver is easier because it is on a tee. Allowing your upper body to sway on iron shots sounds like a disaster. I see a lot of “fat” shots in your future!
If you are stiff and want to get more turn in your backswing, try flaring your right foot out a little bit (review previous article for the details: 3 Simple Tips for Senior Golf Power)
3. COMING DOWN RELEASE YOUR WRISTS, BUT STAY TO THE INSIDE
“Starting down, the hands and arms should make a beeline to the ball. The right elbow and shoulder drop from the top, setting up an inside path into impact. Although often discussed as a fault, “throwing the club from the top” is a great move for the less flexible player: Speeding the arms and unhinging the wrists creates a gradual power boost for the golfer unable to rotate the body quickly through the ball.”
Analysis: Good thought process here but extremely difficult move to master. If you are going to “throw the club from the top,” you will face two very difficult obstacles.
First, it will be extremely difficult to hit the ball from the correct plane and you will struggle with coming over the top of the ball with a pulling and/or slicing result. The advice here is basically to start your downswing with your arms instead of your lower body.
Second, unhinging the wrists early will increase the odds that you will flip the wrists through the ball. Plus, studies indicate that golfers that release their wrists early, reach their maximum swing velocity as the club passes the back leg. In other words, your swing will be decelerating into the golf ball.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can test yourself with the “swoosh” drill.
The Swoosh Drill
Take a long iron and turn it upside down so you are holding the shaft of the club just above the club head. Take your normal, aggressive swing and listen for the “swoosh” sound. The key to this drill is WHERE you hear the “swoosh.”
If you are accelerating into the impact position, you should hear the loudest “swoosh” as the club passes your front leg. If you hear the “swoosh” as the club passes your back leg, you are loosing distance and DEcelerating into the impact position.
Although I would generally advise against this technique, some instructors report that this is how Sam Snead started his downswing. Not bad company…
4. THROUGH IMPACT SLING THE CLUB WITH YOUR HANDS AND ARMS
“You can see here the body is not rotating through as fast as in the young-player sequence. This is a result of less flexibility and body speed. The right foot stays planted, and the body faces the ball at impact. To make up for this lack of rotational speed, this player has to sling the club through with the hands and arms, which is set up by the earlier release, or throw, discussed in the previous frame.”
Analysis: I strongly advise against working on an early release. When you release the club early you are adding an extra variable in your swing that is proven to decrease your accuracy.
I know that if you are stiff, power is sometimes more important than accuracy. However, instead of releasing the club early, you will have more success with focusing on rotating your wrists more aggressively through the impact position. This will help you draw the ball with better accuracy.
Just because your body turn is not as fast as it used to be, does not mean that you can get more power with compensatory motions. One of the great sources of power is timing and sequencing your swing. I suggest you continue to lead with your lower body to gain torque for more power.
Swinging with your arms instead of using your body is a mistake. You probably won’t gain any distance and you will lose consistency, rhythm and timing.
5. AT THE FINISH LET YOUR ARMS FOLD, AND DON’T STRESS THE BACK
Again, limited range of motion is the major obstacle in the follow-through. Instead of the big, wrap-around finish, this player should let the arms collapse comfortably, with both elbows down and relatively tight to the body. The hips and shoulders turn through roughly the same amount, so there’s less stress on the back. It’s a straight-up finish with little curvature in the spine.
Analysis: This type of follow through is going to be your normal follow through if you are not flexible.
However, an abbreviated follow through like this one can cause problems. This past year I have received quite a few emails from golfers over 50 who have inconsistent ball contact because of an abbreviated follow through. If your follow through is cut short, you might have a difficulty timing your weight distribution which can cause your club to bottom out at the wrong time.
If the club bottoms out too early, you are going to hit a lot of ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ golf shots. So if you find that you have an abbreviated follow through there are a couple of things you can do.
First, turn your left foot out 25 degrees. Poor flexibility in your lead hip is the #1 reason your follow through is being cut short. By turning your foot (and thus your hip) outwards, you will have more available motion to turn fully in your follow through.
Second, if your follow through is limited, you might need to do a few exercises to train your body to shift weight correctly. You can get the top 5 exercises for golfers over 50 for free by entering your email below (PS. We do not spam!)
Last year, a golfer sent me a video of her swing because she was hitting the ball fat and we decided it was because of her poor weight shift and abbreviated follow through. You can review that post and video by clicking here.
In summary, if you are a golfer over 50, you need to be skeptical of advice coming from golf instructors that do not specialize in golf instruction for your body type. Jim McLean is obviously an incredible instructor. But I would not say that even a world renowned instructor is your “go-to-source” if they have only written an article or two about the topic of golf instruction specific to golfers over 50 and senior golfers.
Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Weigh in with your opinions below.
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist
Here is the link to the original article in Golf Digest: Click Here