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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Some mid-summer tips

The Putting Green

It's the heart of summer time in Chicago, so savor the summer and start playing more golf! For baseball players, the month of August is called the "dog days of summer." The heat is taking is toll, along with nagging bodily injuries, and everybody seems to be moving at a slightly slower pace. For golfers, however, this is the prime season!

As we enjoy our golf games under the bright sunshine and blue skies, here are a few tips to help you savor these summer days.

Remember to keep your balance. In reading golf magazine articles and in talking to single digit golfers and local pros, one of the most important lessons I've learned is the importance of balance to a good golf swing. If you want to see a professional golfer who epitomizes this concept, look no further than Luke Donald, Northwestern University alumnus and one of the world's top golfers.

The seemingly sudden ascendancy of Luke Donald to the top echelon of the golfing profession is due to many factors, including great iron play, clutch putting, terrific bunker shotmaking, and last but not least, his on-balance golf swing. Watching Donald strike a golf ball with any iron is like watching butter melt on bread. I describe his swing as "silky smooth."

Commentators often question why Donald isn't a better driver of the ball, noting that his percentage of fairways hit is not very high, but they rarely can find any faults with his iron play. What characterizes his iron shots are the smooth take away, the effortless downswing, and the on balance follow through. No matter where the ball goes, Donald is always on balance.

Focus on the short game. Over the course of the years, I've always believed that if you were a strong driver of the golf ball, that is, hit between 8 to 10 of 14 fairways, you would shoot lower scores. Well, I must confess that this maxim is only partially true. You can lose your driving ability and still score fairly well as long as you work on your short game as my golf experience this summer can attest.

For one reason or another, I have lost my driving ability. When I say, "lost my driving ability," I mean hitting only four or five fairways out of 14, and hitting drives that are not a little left or right, but are 30 or 40 yards either left or right of the fairway. My drives are so bad that I now lead my golf association in an unenviable category: wrong fairway hit in regulation.

This lack of driving accuracy, combined with my loss of distance (10-15 yards) due to reaching the ripe old age of 66, has forced me to focus my attention on the short game. I can hardly be described as a "short game master," but by focusing on improving my short game, I have reduced my three-putt greens per round from 2.8 to 1.3, increased the number of chips that are in my five-foot circle around the cup to about two per round from under one, and I hit more shots from within 50 yards to within 15 feet of the pin than ever before.

Work on flexibility in your fitness. Last month, I described physical fitness as the key to playing good golf. I am now refining that terminology to improving your golf flexibility. Here's why.

Every senior golfer suffers from some aches and pains, ranging from bad backs to aching knees to sore shoulders. This should not stop us from playing golf, but to be the best golfers possible, we need to become more flexible. Making a good golf swing time after time takes practice, but we won't be able to repeat those swings if we're not flexible. That's the primary reasons why I urge you to develop a physical fitness regimen that emphasizes flexibility.

That's all for now, except to encourage you to enjoy these summer days by playing more golf!

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