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Senior Golfer - On The Green


What you CAN and CAN'T learn from the pros

The Putting Green

I know I promised an article or two on custom club-fitting beginning this month, but it hasn't worked out. Besides, there's a lot of excitement on the pro tours and some of my friends have told me to focus on what we can learn from the pros. So, that's what this column's all about.

When we watch the pros on TV and see the Konica slow-motion camera swing view with an expert explanation from Peter Kostis on CBS, I constantly marvel at how flexible, strong, and athletic these golfers are. In January, for example, Kyle Stanley's swing was shown in slow motion and all I could say was "Wow!"

Now, as much as I admired Stanley's swing, I didn't learn much from it. His youth, flexibility and strength allow him to swing the club, turn his body, and accelerate in the downswing so quickly that it produces prodigious (always wanted to use this word in one of my columns) drives that are both long and straight. The same things hold true when announcers and experts analyze Tiger's, Phil's, Rory's or some other one-name tour pro's swing. We can't imitate these swings or we'll end up with bad backs, aching shoulders and maybe even a sports hernia.

Other golfers have told me to focus on the swings of players of the Champions Tour if I want to learn from the pros. Well, here again we learn about shoulder turn, swing arc, lag time, hitting down on the ball, and follow-through, I believe that the same things hold true for these players as for the touring pros-they are in a different world than you and me.

Here's some facts on what we can't learn from the pros and why. First, we can't swing like the pros because we don't play golf for a living; so the amount of time spent practicing, working with a teacher, and getting fitted for clubs is totally different. Second, we'll never be as flexible as the pros because we sit behind a desk. No one I know goes to an exercise table two hours before their rounds for a massage, a loosening up of their muscles by a professional therapist. Third, we don't hire golf psychologists to help us with our mental games. In my case, I usually head to Dub's Pub after a round, order a beer and discuss my round with my golfing buddies.

Is there anything we can learn from watching touring pros and pros on the Champions Tour? The answer is "Yes," and we'd be foolish not to pick up on these learning clues. The main thing we can learn from these golfers is how important the short game is to their golfing success.

Back to Kyle Stanley whose collapse on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines led to an eight and an eventual playoff that he lost to Brendt Smedeker. Was it the sand wedge shot that spun off the green or the three-putts from 45 feet that was his downfall? It was both. If we want to improve our games, we have a limited amount of time and money, but we cam make significant strides by working on the short game, e.g., the shots from 100 yards and closer, specifically the chips, pitches, and putts.

Second, no matter how fast or how hard these pros appear to swing, there's a rhythm to their swings. If you don't know what that rhythm is, take a close look at the swings of Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Fred Couples. When most seniors swing, there's a profound lack of rhythm. Some people call this tempo, but it's basically the same thing.

Finally, if you want to improve your games without spending an arm and a leg, learn the proper way to grip your clubs and get the correct grip size. The proper grip will allow you to square the clubface at impact. The proper grip size can help you become longer and more accurate without making a single change to your swing.

And, remember, let's work to play better golf in 2012.


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