Some players golf games get better as they older … some get worse. I was one of those “worse” guys.
I started noticing trouble in my 50s … then around 60, it was pretty obvious that things had changed. Not only had I lost distance and swing speed … but I was hitting fat shots and other goofy stuff. And not only were my shots flying shorter, but they were getting lower … and lower.
The problem was that I was more of a “hitter” than a “swinger”. My swing was more of a punch than a sweep. I loved to punch wedges into greens – it was probably my best shot. And, I basically used a long punch swing as my normal golf swing. More of Lee Trevino than Payne Stewart.
It was a good way to play for my job. Was low maintenance … seldom wild … not exciting, but worked. If I chipped and putted decently, I could score decently.
Well, I played the other day with an old friend … and he was going through the same stuff. He’d played college golf at a big-time school … but 40 years later he was struggling. Though not a big guy … he’d been more of a hitter than a swinger. He’d always had a great short game … but you still have to get the ball around the golf course … he’d become short and wild.
Ironically, the wilder he got, the more that he “held on”. We all think that “swinging” leads to wildness … that control comes from no hand-action.
Wrong. Here’s why: You need to square-up the clubface at impact. If you don’t square-it-up with your hands … you’ll try to square-it-up with your shoulders.
And, he was trying to get power from his legs. He was trying to drive his legs into the shot. After he told me that’s what he was doing … I asked him to punch me and drive his legs into it. He couldn’t do it. The leg action stopped his punching motion.
Here’s an analogy: Our high school catcher could throw a rocket to second base without coming out of the crouch position. A pitcher pitches because he can throw. His windup doesn’t throw the ball.
Your golf swing should feel like throwing a golf club. That’s the right motion. But here’s the secret to make it work: The left hand has to throw the club back-handed through the ball like a frisbee. So (if you’re right-handed), the golf swing is like throwing the club sidearm at the target. And … during that motion … the back of the left hand also throws the club out to the right and up. If it doesn’t go right and up … you’ll hit a low hook. But, right and up, you’ll hit a high draw … not a bad little shot to have at your disposal.
In fact, since I first wrote this blog, I played 9 holes with the first Club Champion (1990) here at Deer Run GC. We hadn’t played together in 25 years … and he couldn’t believe how high my tee shots had become and that they drew back in. He was struggling with the same stuff as my old friend – not swinging the golf club. So he tried my left-hand frisbee throw. His last two drives of the day were semi-high draws. He’d never been able to hit that shot. I wish I had a video – he was pretty excited.
That is a free action – not a punch. You’ll need a lighter grip and softer hands and arms … in fact, just a more relaxed body. This is not the Arnold Palmer action. You want more of a Louie Oosthuizen swing. In fact, Tiger Woods has become more of a swinger than he used to be.
If you’re shut in and looking for something to do … take a look at videos by Manuel de la Torre, Ernest Jones, Bob Toski, and Mike Malaska.
And just watch videos of Sam Snead. Snead won on Tour at age 52 … and made the cut in a US Open at age 61. Snead played great golf into his 80s. He played everyday and never had the knee and back problems of modern golfers.
We can play well as we get older … but we need to be “swingers” and not “hitters”.
GM/Head PGA Professional