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Senior Golfer - On The Green

What's more important: brawn or brains

The Putting Green

If there is one thing that has dominated golf magazines and golf sports shows over the last six months, it's that power and athleticism have transformed the game of golf. The prime example of this is the PGA Tour and the number of PGA players who consistently smash their drives more than 300 yards. And even more impressive is the amount of money won by the bombers over the shorter hitters.

For all the buzz about power and distance on pro tours and among senior golfers, the contrarian view has grabbed my attention. I read about in the February issue of Golfweek, specifically an article by Dr. Bob Winter. His theory is quite simple: Longer drives are great, but real power comes from focusing energy on details that lead to lower scores.

In the final paragraph of his column, Dr. Winter poses this thought: "Ask anyone on the 19th hole what they'd rather have-another 10 yards on their drives or another couple inches or so on their two putts that stayed short?"

Winter believes that your answer to this question requires wisdom. You need to choose wisely "to create the real power of a focused mind and a balanced game plan for your best game ever." That said, he also believes that the human psyche has a visceral side that speaks to people crushing the ball. And haven't we all wished that we could 10-15 yards to our drives?

I believe that there is a very thin line separating those golfers who believe in the need for more power and athleticism and those who espouse the idea that we need to use more brain power. Let's face it, the game of golf is now a power game. Technology, strength and athleticism have dramatically changed the PGA Tour into a power game, and it's also changed the way many amateurs, including seniors, place their emphasis.

Let's face it, golfers-I mean all golfers-my age all grew up following the slogan, "Drive for show and putt for dough." Over the years, however, that simple mantra has betrayed us. While we admire the consistency of our fellow competitors, we drool over the monstrous drives that Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy hit. We go to the driving range and hit a large bucket of balls, but we hardly ever spend more than 10 minutes on the putting green.

Let's face facts. Hitting a monstrous drive speaks volumes to our egos, but we know just as well that consistency and control are equally as important. I can tell you that is true every week that I play golf. I routinely outdrive my playing partners by anywhere from 10 to 25 yards. Despite this advantage, I have the highest handicap.

You might ask if my drives are in the fairway, or if I just whale away without any concerns about the rough or trees? I can tell you that I average 10 fairways hit each round. So, what's the difference between my scores and those of the players? The answer is in the details: they are better putters, have better pitching and chipping games, and I continue to lag far behind.

Let me add one final thought. One stroke a round in a game of golf may not seem like much, but it is the difference between the top players and those around 125 on the Tour money list. For senior golfers, paying attention to the short game, focusing on your mental concentration, and being more consistent is the secret to lower scores. Focus on those details, instead of trying to crush those drives 300 yards and you'll find yourself shooting lower scores and enjoying the game a lot more.

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