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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Time for a mid-summer makeover

The Putting Green

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve completed half the golf season in Chicago. For most golfers, Chicago’s limited golf season begins in April and goes through October, so July 4 is the midway point.

Now’s a good time to step back, review where we stand and opt for a mid-season makeover that will help us enjoy the game for the remaining months. As one of the golf magazines that litter my desk says, “Think young and play hard.”

There’s no better place to begin our makeover than the present. How are we playing? Are we shooting better, worse or the same as last year? Have we kept track of our statistics so that we know our strengths and weaknesses? Are we willing to put in the time and effort to improve our games? Are we willing to spend the money to visit a PGA professional and ask for her/his help via lessons?

Now, for most senior golfers, keeping track of our golf games isn’t that important. It’s more of a social occasion than a competitive game. On the other hand, no one likes to lose all the time. So, let’s face reality about improving our games, and I’ll use my golfing buddy Larry (74) as my example.

Larry and I both are single digit handicappers—I’m a seven and he’s a nine. Larry will tell you that his biggest problems are losing distance, poor drives and “the mental” part of the game. Larry estimates that his drives are costing him three to four shots every round because many of them end up in the rough, only go 180 yards, and leave him with long second shots to par fours and third shots to par fives. He’s also disturbed about hitting one more club to the green from 150 yards, and he’s really upset with taking four shots from 125 yards away from the pin.

My problems are slightly different than Larry’s. I could improve my game by working on my chipping and putting, scoring better from 125 yards and in, and concentrating more on the par threes.

A closer look at Larry’s and Jerry’s golf games reveals some very specific areas that need improvements. Specifically, both of us need to work on our chipping, when we miss greens from the fairways or rough. We should ask ourselves, “What’s a good up-and-down percentage for us?” If we answer, “Around 40 percent,” then we’re in trouble. We need to chip close enough so that we can make putts and get up and down two out of every three times around the green.

The second problem that neither of us has mastered is our scores on par threes. The last time we played together, Larry and I both averaged bogeys on the par threes. If we want to improve our games and reduce our score by three to four shots a round, we should look at how we approach the short holes. It’s not that difficult to hit the green on a par three of 160 yards or less.

Finally, the ability to concentrate, to focus on the shot at hand, seems to be a lost skill with both of us. After we hit a bad drive or iron shot, it’s not uncommon for either Larry or I to mutter, “I knew I was going to hit that shot left. I should have just stopped and started all over.” So, why didn’t we stop?

Without belaboring the point, here are three tips for our mid-summer makeovers. The quickest way to reduce our scores is by working and improving our chipping and putting. The next step is to work on those par threes. Take a little more time and put in a little more effort to hitting the greens and taking two putts. Don’t always aim for the pins. In fact, a good object is to hit the middle of the green, no matter where the pin is placed. Finally, work to improve our concentration and focus. It only takes about 30 seconds to pick a club, take a practice swing, and then hit the ball. But it’s the preparation and the ability to concentrate on the shot at the hand that will produce positive results.

Enjoy the golfing season by playing more golf!

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