Senior Golf Swing Tips: It’s Never Too Late to Improve

cartoon image of two senior golfers

Author Ned Howard - Golf PGA Teaching Professional

Author: Ned Howard – Retired PGA Teaching Professional

Senior Golfing

  1. Swing Tips (and setup changes)
  2. Equipment Changes
  3. On the Course Tips
  4. Increasing Your Distance

As we get older in age, golf is still a sport that helps us stay in shape as seniors. In fact, many golfers don’t pick up the sport until after they retire from their career.

There was a time I played in a seniors scramble tournament and my partner was an 85 year old gentleman who carried a 15 handicap.

During the round, I asked him how long he’d been playing, because although he didn’t hit the ball far, he nearly always hit it straight down the fairway. He was always on the green on par 4’s and 5’s for a chance at birdie.

His answer to my question about how long he’d been playing was “I didn’t start until after I retired from work”. I asked him WHY he started playing and his answer again was ‘for camaraderie and exercise” since he said he found himself getting lazy.

So, this goes to show that even once we reach our senior golden years, we can use the sport of golf for camaraderie with friends, and to stay in great shape!

I’m a senior golfer and most of the time I walk the course. And when I get finished, my step counter says I’ve walked around 11,000 steps, or about 4 miles, and have burned about 500 or so calories.

Not only is golf good exercise for senior golfers, but it also provides up 4 to 5 hours of much needed sunlight.

cartoon photo of a group of golfing seniors

How Does the Game Change as a Senior Golfer

Golf itself really doesn’t change a whole lot for the senior golfer. It’s still the same game. It still allows us to get out in the sun and exercise for 4 or 5 hours.

joke about senior golf

However, what has changed is how we address the golf ball.

Some of us may have to use a wider stance and open the lead foot so our bodies can pass through after impact… OR, like some I know, just step through with the trail foot.

Another thing that changes is the length of the swing.

As we get older, we may have to shorten our backswing, and even change from steel to graphite shafts (or change the flex of the shaft).

When some of these changes will take place could be anyone’s guess. You’ll know when it’s time.

There will be subtle indicators that will force you to make decisions on changing your swing, your shaft flex, switching out your long irons for hybrids or other fairway woods, etc.

Senior Golf Swing Tips

Setup Changes

As we get older, our bodies tend to not be as flexible as were in our younger years. This can cause less stability when swinging the golf club.

Golf Stance for Seniors

  1. Therefore, to counteract this stability change, many professionals will recommend a wider stance both in our woods and irons.
  2. Another thing to change is the way your feet are placed on the ground. Close the shoulders and feet to the target line (basically aim a little more right). This allows for MORE ROTATION in the backswing.
  3. I’ve seen a few senior golf friends do one more thing after impact to help their bodies rotate through, and that is to step through with the trail foot, thus having the entire body facing down the fairway at the target.

I really like this video here, he does a good job of explaining the setup changes necessary to allow for MORE ROTATION in the backswing… check it out:

 

Golf Exercises for Seniors

To compensate and help us stay limber in the waist and upper torso, twisting exercises seem to help tremendously! Even yoga that twists our bodies in opposite directions can do wonders.

A good example of this is lying on our backs, feet up near our butts, and legs going one way while the upper body goes exactly the opposite.

This move will also help those, like me, put our lower backs and sacrums back into position. Mine tends to pop out easily and pinches the sciatic nerve. It also helps me to stay out of my chiropractor’s office more often than not.

Shorten Your Swing

This is one thing that gets to us all, we find we are not limber enough to pull off a John Daly backswing anymore.

What do we do then?

The golf swing for the older man is a shorter backswing to fit our aging, and quite possibly, arthritis riddled bodies.

Shortening the swing is one of the best senior golf tips, period!

Like myself, I’ve found that I’ve had to shorten to more of a three-quarter swing rather than the full swing I used to make. I just can’t rotate my body as much, no matter what kind of stretching I do.

Guys and Gals, these are the setbacks of getting old. Yea I know, it sucks but it’s reality.

So, if you find yourself unable to make those full turns and long backswings, “bite the bullet” and shorten your backswing. You can still maintain the power by using your hips more, provided you’re still able. If not, do the best you can with what you have.

Besides, you might actually find there is less error and more accuracy in the shorter swing, and it’ll help keep your shots out of trouble more often.

Equipment Changes

Club Changes – More Woods and Hybrids

Uh oh! This one really bites. Getting rid of our long irons and going to more fairway woods and hybrids.

When we were younger, at least when I was younger, I said “I’ll never take my long irons out of my bag and go to hybrids.

Well guys and gals, I’m now 68 and have taken my 3i, 4i, and 5i out of my bag and replaced them with a 3H, 4H, and 5H.

I still have my 3 wood and driver in the bag, but have added more loft to both to accommodate my slower swing speed. I used to have around 105 to 110 swing speed, even into my early 60’s. Now it’s slowed to between 95 and 100.

a photo of an iron vs a hybrid

(Image courtesy of Golf Monthly)

This happens to every senior golfer at some point in his/her life. We lose swing speeds and strengths. Without these, hitting those long irons becomes more and more difficult, but we don’t have to lose the distance.

Here’s a list of which clubs can be replaced, and by what:
  • 3 iron – replaced with a 5 wood or 3 hybrid
  • 4 iron – replaced with a 7 wood or 4 hybrid
  • 5 iron – replaced with a 9 wood or 5 hybrid

The woods and hybrids are easier to hit simply because of where the center of gravity is, near the back of the club, and hybrids are thicker, thus more bounce and don’t get stuck in the ground as easily as long irons.

If you’re a senior golfer and find yourself having problems hitting the long irons in your bag, take a look at replacing them with hybrids or fairway woods that match the lofts of these long irons.

Shaft Changes

This is another one of those, “This really bites” on golfers who, like me, just couldn’t give up the stiffer shafts.

As we get older, unfortunately, we not only lose distance, at about 5 yards a year past the age of 65, we lose swing speed and the ability to use those “stiff” shafts.

I used to have stiff shafts on my driver, fairway woods, and hybrids, and regular shafts on the irons. This was a good combination for me, so whether I added my 3 hybrid or just used my 3i, it didn’t matter much… until this year when I turned 68.

I started having a problem with the stiff shafts and decided to try out regular shafts. Since on my driver and fairway wood, I had the Callaway Opti Fit Adapters, it was easy to change shafts. So, I bought two regular flex wood shafts and adapters, and made up one for each club.

Off to the range I went, then tried them out on the course. Both gave me more distance and better accuracy than my old stiff shafts. Thus, in the end, I changed out my hybrids as well.

Best Driver for Seniors

There are certain drivers out there that are just simply better for seniors and slower swing speeds than the rest. I’m not going to elaborate too much here, but you can check out my in-depth review if you’re a golfer whose looking to upgrade to the best drivers for seniors.

Other drivers you may want to look into is something that just has a lot of added forgiveness. It’s harder to hit the sweet spot as we loose dexterity and feel of the swing. We have a list of the most forgiving driver options here.

Putter Changes

As we age, so do our bones. This means that maybe we can’t stay bent over a put for very long without it beginning to take its toll on our backs, or maybe you’re retired military with a back injury from duty.

Either way, you’re no longer able to stay in a bent over position for a long time, or when you’re out on the practice green you find that your ability to work on your putting skills is being cut short due to a tremendous backache.

Or maybe when you’re out playing a round, the backache starts about halfway through the round. What then?

We could take that pain killer and play on… OR we could consider changing putters. Since belly putters are no longer allowed and have been replaced by “Arm Lock Putters”, these still force you to bend over and put strain on your back.

Why not try the Long/Broomstick Style of putter? This putter DOES NOT put stress and strain on your back, so you can practice for a long period of time. They do not hamper you with back pain out on the course either.

Now some may say this type of putter was banned in January of 2019. The answer is yes in the beginning it was.

However, thanks to the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour, and the PGA Champions Tour, the putter was allowed BACK IN to accommodate those who were using it at the beginning, namely Bernhard Langer, Scott McCarron, VJ Singh, Adam Scott, and a few others.

Bernhard Langer putting the ball

(Photo Credit – The New York Times – Bernhard Langer)

The difference now is you cannot anchor any part of your arms, including your hands, to your body. If you’ve never used a long putter, you really need to try it! There are several videos by Bernhard Langer, Scott McCarron, VJ Singh, Bobby Grace Putters, and even one by Odyssey Putters. All of these will give you an idea of how to use the long/broomstick putter.

Golf Tips for Seniors – On the Course

Play the Senior Tees

For seniors who wish to make life easier and possibly have better scores, due to the inability of reaching greens in regulation, you may be better off playing the forward senior tees.

However, for those of us in the senior golf category who can still smash our drives 250 or more, moving this far forward could present a problem. These forward tees often force long hitting senior golfers to use irons, hybrids, or fairway woods off the tee, simply because they are far up to use the driver.

A rule of thumb for playing tees in front of the tips should be this: If you cannot reach each par 4 by hitting a driver and short to mid iron to the green, then you’re playing from the wrong tees. For par 5’s, if you can’t use your driver, fairway wood, then a mid to short iron to the green, you should play from the forward tees.

The forward tees, i.e. senior tees, are designed to give older golfers a fighting chance in handicapping and tournament play.

funny meme about senior golf

Too many times, I have seen senior golfers play from tees they have no business playing from and when you question them, they act like it’s a pride thing and get really angry, but yet can barely hit their drivers over 200 yards (if that much).

The late, great Arnold Palmer used to say…

“Play it forward and you’ll enjoy the game more

I’ve even heard the same from Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. This statement is so true.

Play the tees you do well at and your handicap with thank you along with your playing buddies who might be longer hitters than you.

Tee It Up on Bad Lies

Although not allowed in play if you’re totally adhering to the rules, teeing the ball in the fairway is a big no-no.

However, if you’re not so good with the fairway shot, or even chipping for that matter, and your buddies “don’t give a hoot”, go ahead and tee it up.

Just remember you can’t really use that score legally for handicap purposes and definitely cannot use that method in tournament play.

The rounds when you do tee it up after your drive in the fairways should only be counted as practice.

Now here’s the funny part about teeing it up in the fairway. I’ve recently been playing in Asia, and they require you to use caddies.

The caddies are forever improving your lie by finding a clump of grass to tee the ball up with, moving the ball out of trouble, etc, and if you don’t tell them to leave the ball as it lies, then you’ll find them helping your game by improving your lie.

It’s a standard practice in Asia, even in tournaments.

Extra Warm Up Time

Once we reach our golden years, warming up before any type of physical activity is essential. Sorry to say, but we are just not as young or limber as we used to be.

And many of us are riddled with arthritis, so allowing extra time to get our bones and muscles moving is a must.

Using an “Orange Whip” or Weight Ring, grabbing 2 or 3 irons from the bag, or any other device to swing and warm up with is not only a good idea but should be a must on any of our lists before any type of exercising.

Tips for Senior Golfers to Increase Your Distance

Work On Your Ball Striking

  • Ball striking position depends on what club you are using. If you’re using an iron, the correct method of contact should be the ball first, followed by the divot.
  • For fairway woods and hybrids, the contact position is the ball first again, but then just brushing the ground and taking a much more shallow divot.
  • For the driver, or a teed up wood, you should be hitting the ball on the way UP, not down

Use Your Hips

Let me say this, impact position does help, but this is not where most of your power or distance arises from.

One of the best tips for senior golfers is to USE YOUR HIPS!

If you watch all golfers, once they reach the top of the backswing and start the transition, everything else starts from the ground up. Their hips and lower torso begin to unwind from the ground, then the upper body follows thereafter.

Remember always that the golf swing starts from the ground up both in the backswing, through transition, and into the downswing, and through impact.

Check out this guy here, he really explains the importance of USING THE HIPS to get more distance in the 2nd part of the video… the 1st part of the video is good too where he talks about staying loose and relieving tension in your arms and shoulders:

FAQ – Senior Golfing

Note – Some of these FAQs were covered throughout the article, but I still get these questions a lot… so here are the “short and sweet” answers to the most common questions:

What Is The Closed Coil Golf Swing for Seniors?

The closed coil golf swing for seniors is basically turning the feet out at address, and moving the trail foot back 3 or so inches to allow the body to get more rotation in the backswing.

The more rotation back, the more power through impact us as senior golfers will produce.

However, having the trail foot back so the body is in a slightly closed position, is going to limit follow-through and finish.

This shouldn’t be much of a concern considering we want maximum power and speed at impact.

How Do You Swing a Senior Shaft Driver?

Swinging a senior shafted driver, or any other club, is really no different than swinging a regular flex, stiff flex, or extra stiff flex shaft. It’s all the same. The only difference of course is the swing speed.

Those with swing speeds below 85 MPH should consider changing to the more flexible senior shafts as these will allow you to get your ball into the air easier.

Should a Senior Get Graphite Shafts for Irons?

When a senior swing speed slows below around 85 MPH, it might be wise for this type of golfer to try out graphite shafts, even for the irons.

Believe me, there is a different “kick point” between graphite and steel. I’ve preferred graphite since I was in my early 50’s with a swing speed over 105.

How Far Should a 70 Year Old Man Hit a Golf Ball?

How far a 70 year old can hit a golf ball will depend on their athleticism. A good general answer to this question would be around 200 yards or more. But I’ve personally seen 70-year olds drive a golf ball 280 down the fairway, and I’ve seen them barely make 200.

How Do Seniors Increase Driving Distance?

Seniors can increase driving distance by doing swing speed drills and gaining strength. Sometimes changing equipment will also help, but still, the golf swing and distance depends on the athleticism of each individual. Doing crunches and using equipment and drills designed to increase the strength of the core muscles will help as well.

golf instruction for seniors

Final Thoughts for the Senior Golfer

Becoming a senior does not have to limit your love for the game.

It just changes the way we have to approach the game.

Now we have to play smarter golf. No longer can we get up and hit drives and other shots like we used to do in our younger years. To maintain good scores for our ages, we have to plan each shot and try our best to carry out those plans.

As senior golfers, our bodies take more to stay fit and take more time to prepare for a round of golf through warm up exercises and stretches.

We find our club choices and equipment changing as well. All this is due to our swing speeds slowing down. We’re not always able to use all our long irons so we change to hybrids.

No longer are we able to use the stiff or regular flex shafts so we change to senior golf shafts… and even some of us have to go one step further and use ladies flex shafts.

But that’s ok!

There is and should be no shame in this. In the old days, there were only steel stiff and regular flex shafts. Now shafts go from XS flex to L flex, and thank goodness for this.

Equipment has changed over the years allowing those of us who are a little older in age to be able to compete and enjoy the game even more.

So, in essence, take our golden years with pride! My best tips for senior golfers is to play the forward tees, play the equipment designed for seniors, and just enjoy the game!