News & Opinion

Golf after 60: A little pain, but no gain

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, “I thought getting this old would take longer.” It was funny – for a minute.

I don’t feel 62. I’ve just been to the doctor for a physical. My blood pressure is perfect, my heart is great, my cholesterol and glucose are good. I’m a prostate cancer survivor. The doc didn’t even tell me I had to lose weight (although 10 pounds wouldn’t hurt). I’m so healthy, it ought to be against the law.

Well, except for that pain in my right shoulder and in my right piriformis (you can look it up), but that doesn’t keep me off the golf course. I can play relatively pain-free, although I regularly invest in a large bottle of ibuprofen, which is a wonder drug.

But I’m getting a glimpse of what golf after 60 looks like. I’m starting to lose 5 yards of distance, practically through the bag. It feels like I’m hitting it just as hard; it’s just not going quite as far. It’s disturbing and depressing at the same time, particularly knowing that it’s only going to get worse unless I find a way to arrest it.

However, I’m not going to the gym and try to look like Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy. That’s so laughable that I have a hard time controlling it. Besides, I don’t think it would help my golf game. And I’m not going to find a teacher to try to change my swing. I don’t have the time or the inclination to hit 10,000 balls to make a major swing change, so my swing is going to last the rest of my life.

However, there are a few things we can invest in to grab some control and maybe slow down the deterioration.

I’m not against exercise. For a start, if you play at a course that allows walking, then walk when you can. Invest in a push cart. If you can’t walk 18 holes, walk nine and ride nine. Any walking helps.

I have a good friend who is a golfer and he goes to yoga class four times a week. He sings its praises, noting that it improves strength and flexibility, which could only help my golf. I’m not past the thinking-about-it phase, but I am intrigued.

I know only a couple of yoga positions, though – cat and downward dog. I can get down on the floor to do those, but the problem is getting back up. And if I tried sun salute, they might have to call the paramedics.

If you want more distance, you have to create more speed, and there are training tools. I have an Orange Whip trainer, which doesn’t necessarily train for more speed but does help with rhythm, timing and balance. Work with the Orange Whip helps to hit the ball more solidly, which for most of us does mean more distance.

The hottest training clubs on the PGA Tour are from SuperSpeed Golf. That company touts three clubs, each with a different weight on the end of the shaft instead of a clubhead. Its program entails swinging as hard as you can from each side of the ball. I don’t have these – yet.

Prevailing wisdom among golf teachers and TrackMan enthusiasts is that if you hit the ball with your driver a couple of degrees on the upswing, you will get a sizable increase in distance. Scientifically, that’s true, but I don’t know if that’s available for most of us. Even most PGA Tour players hit down on the ball 1 or 2 degrees with the driver.

It’s said among the well-informed that you can’t buy a game. That’s true, but only to a point. Technology has advanced to such an extent that you can find clubs that will help while keeping your same swing.

If you want to maximize distance for your swing, invest the time and money and get properly fitted for a driver. Chances are, if the fitter is good, you’ll find a shaft that could pick up some extra yards.

I’ve even thought about game-improvement irons that probably would go higher and longer than my current set. But I’m stubborn enough to think I can hit what I have, and besides, I like the way they look.

But my 4-iron is looking more like a 2-iron and is becoming harder and harder to hit. I have a 4-hybrid in the closet just waiting to break into the starting lineup, which could happen any day.

The best thing any of us can do as we get older is improve our short game. If you struggle, like I do, find a teacher who can help you learn to chip, pitch and putt. If you are proficient in those areas, you’ll never be happier in golf.

That’s not only true for golf after 60 but for any age.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email:; Twitter@mikepurkeygolf