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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Some tips for KISS followers

The Putting Green

Readers of this column will note my focus this year on the KISS (Keep It Simple Senior) method for improving our golf games. This month’s column continues that trend by offering tips I’ve gathered from books, magazines, discussions with pros, and my own experience to help improve our games.

Although everyone believes golf is a very difficult game to learn and master, we can do both better if we approach the game from a spiritual viewpoint. Instead of golf being a series of problems that need to be solved, approach it as a mystery we need to let unfold. Here are some of the great mysteries of golf:

  • How can I hit the ball so pure on the practice range and so miserably on the golf course? What happens to cause this all-too-common occurrence?
  • How can the same person hit one drive that slices 20 yards to the right of the fairway, over the fence and out of bounds and then the next one straight down the middle 240 yards?
  • How can one person play the same golf course and shoot a 92 on a Saturday, and then play the same course and shot an 82 the following Saturday?
  • Why do senior golfers lose 10-15yards off their drives and irons, once they reach their 60s?
  • What causes the yips and how can golfers get rid of them? Doctors and scientists will tell you that there’s no such thing as the “yips,” but golfers know better. And, the same question applies to “shanks.”

If these are the mysteries, here are some tips to help us deal with them.

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Not sure who originally said this, e.g., Ben Hogan, Gary Play, or Lee Trevino, but it works. Most seniors play golf, but don’t practice. And if they do practice, they don’t do it with a purpose They bemoan the loss of distance, poorly hit shots, and high scores, but don’t go to a pro for lesson or practice what they’ve been taught. Golf is a game that does not produce instant gratification.

The biggest obstacle to a good golfer is not his swing mechanics, clubs, or golf course—it’s the five inches between the ears. Yes, the mental aspect of golf is probably more important to shooting lower scores than the physical. If we don’t focus on the shot at hand, but rather try to remember the 10 tips for a good golf swing, we’ll never hit a great shot.

A corollary to this tip comes when we answer the question: How do we stop the bleeding? We’ve played the first eight holes in three over par, then suddenly bogey nine, double bogey 10, and bogey 11. What do we need to do to stop the higher scores? The answer is to clear our minds of the past, not worry about the future, and focus on the shot at hand. For example, if the next hole is a par three, don’t fret over that three-putt double-bogey on the last hole, but rather ask yourself: What club do I need to hit that will reach the middle of the green on this 160-yard par three?

We shouldn’t try to hit shots we’ve never practiced before. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen my fellow golfers try to hit low, boring shots on windy days, when they’ve never practiced them before. And, how about the golfer attempting the flop shot from deep rough over a bunker to a tight pin that results in either a skull or a chunk, but rarely a great shot. Why? They never practiced it.

Finally, golf is not a game of perfect, Dr. Bob Rotella, a noted golf psychologist, said in his book by the same name. The immortal Ben Hogan said that in a typical round of golf he was fortunate enough to hit one or two perfect shots. Well, if this golf icon only hit one or two perfect shots, why should we kept upset, frustrated, and/or mad when we hit poor shot? Golf is a simple game of hitting the ball, finding it, hitting it again and again until it reaches the bottom of the cup. It seems that no one ever asks how we hit the ball, only our score—the mystery of golf.

Join me next month, when I offer some more tips to help us improve our games by making it simpler.

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