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Senior Golfer - On The Green

New Year's Resolution: Play better golf

The Putting Green

At this time of the year, it is fairly common to make New Year's resolutions, most of which will be forgotten by the end of January. This year, I want to offer a New Year's resolution that we all can work on throughout the year: play better golf.

Because golf is both a simple, yet complex game, I will be writing a year-long series of columns focusing on efforts to play better golf. This month's column looks at some general principles, and in future columns I will discuss custom club fitting for seniors, the importance of physical fitness, how to play better golf mentally, better golf through technology and golf course management.

As we get older, winning and losing are not the main objectives in our golf games, although I must admit that they are mine. Most seniors play golf to share a few laughs, hit some good shots and enjoy the camaraderie of our golfing companions. I want to add one more component to this definition: play better golf.

One of the first things senior golfers want to do is find out the quickest way to play better golf. Before this, however, senior golfers need to have a goal, whether it is to shoot lower scores, break 100, 90 or 80, hit longer drives, make more putts, strike your irons in the middle of the clubface, and/or hit better pitch and chip shots.

Articles in Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and discussions with teaching pros tell us that the quickest way to lower our scores is by improving our short games. This involves several components, but what we are talking about is the numerous shots we face in an average round from 100 yards and closer to the green. These can be pitches, chip shots and putts, and as we all know, it takes different techniques and skills to hit all of these shots.

My goal is to improve my short game this year, because I lose anywhere from three to five shots a round due to poor chips. For example, I hit a drive 260 yards on a 350-yard hole, hit my gap wedge to the front of the green, and then hit my chip shot 10 feet short of the hole. I missed the putt and ended up with a five because of a poor chip.

Now, I thought the best way to improve our short games in particular, and our overall games was by practicing more, but I learned from my discussions with friends, who are both teaching professionals and good amateur golfers, that this is a fallacy. In fact, according to Golf Magazine's survey of top 100 teaching professionals, improper practice is the number one shortcoming among all golfers.

So, what is improper practice? It is practice without a purpose. It is hitting a large bucket of balls with the same club because you have been having problems with it in recent rounds. It is hitting more drivers than any other club because you want to get back those lost 10 or 20 yards. It is not spending enough time on our short games. In short, it is practicing the same mistakes time after time.

To rectify this situation, go to your local teaching professional and get some lessons. Find out what is wrong with your swing and then head to the driving range to correct that fault. Change your practice sessions so that you spend 20 minutes hitting balls, 10 minutes on chips and pitches, and 10-15 minutes on putts.

The second principle we should follow in improving our golf games is to realize our limitations. As we age, we lose some flexibility, some distance and some competitiveness. This should never stop us from the lifelong journey of working hard to play better golf.

We may never be able to make the shoulder turns of 10-20 years ago, but we can increase our clubhead speed by lifting our chins, softening our wrists, and making a should turn instead of slide through the hitting area. We may not be a short game guru, but we can all work to improve our short games.

Join me next month when I talk to a custom club fitter who is cognizant of the limitations of all seniors, yet believes that we can all play better golf.

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