There are undoubtedly a lot of frustrating parts to getting older. As far as golf is concerned, the big one is loss of distance. That 7 iron becomes a six then a five and probably a hybrid. There isn’t really a lot you can do about this and to be honest, something like a modern hybrid still lets the senior golfer get the ball up in the air and staying on the green despite a slower swing speed. In fact, nobody really cares if you hit that green with an iron or a four hybrid. Drivers for senior citizens are sometimes a different matter altogether however.
The Longest Club in the Bag
The problem with driver is the same as with any other club in the bag or course. We get older and we don’t hit a given club as far. I know this is the case for me. Although for the moment I really haven’t lost a great deal, I also acknowledge that this won’t be the same in ten, twenty of thirty years.
The solution through most of the bag is, as I said above, simply to club up. Hit a six instead of a seven. Many people do this anyway, hitting controlled shots with more club. This is fine through most of the bag. Of course, it does mean that someone with less clubhead speed will be hitting lower balls into the green in general but golf club tech will help with that.
The driver presents a unique difficulty for seniors because you can’t simply club up. It is the longest club in the bag, so there is no taking one more club unfortunately. This doesn’t mean that you are out of options though. Here are a few things that can help the older golfer (or in fact any slower swinger).
Play a Longer Driver
I have put this one first because it is what most people think of first but I would say it really isn’t the best idea for many people. In theory, a longer driver will mean more clubhead speed through basic physics. This means more ball speed and more distance.
Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t often pan out like this. Simply put, a longer driver is actually going to be harder to hit and if you aren’t hitting the middle of the club that often, any potential speed gains aren’t going to appear. If you are a very good senior golfer, you should probably at least consider going a little longer. A little means an inch or less though because any more than this is probably going to be more bother than it is worth.
Add Some Loft
The first port of call should really be loft. A good golfing friend of mine is now in his eighties. He is still a solid player but is frustrated by this loss of distance. About 5 or 6 years ago, he was about to abandon the driver altogether because he just couldn’t get it up in the air enough and was, as a consequence, losing a fair bit of distance. He has been a good golfer ll his life, not far off scratch at his best. Over time, his handicap had drifted up towards high single figures and beyond.
As a low handicapper, he had always had a relatively heavy shaft in a low lofted head. It was simply what he had played and it worked for him. By his mid-seventies, he was still middling it, but even one out of the screws wasn’t really getting far above head height.
He changed his driver for something with 12 degrees of loft. He also changed shaft (and more on that later) but suddenly he was getting the ball away with a far higher launch angle. He didn’t have enough speed to create enough spin to keep his nine degree driver in the air, but 12 degrees was a different story. The extra loft meant that the ball was spinning more and simply staying in the air for longer. The result was an easy increase in distance.
Different Shaft Options
The other thing my friend did was change for a lighter, softer shaft. In fact, I think the idea of lighter is actually far more important than softer. There are driver shafts out there that weigh 40 grams. The difference between this and say 70 grams doesn’t seem like much but it is absolutely huge in terms of feel and results. Any golfer will gain a few miles an hour of swing speed and will also be able to maintain that speed over 18 holes more easily.
Fitting Can Be Useful
It i easy to say that loft and shaft are important. If you are an experienced golfer, this can be easy enough. However, if you aren’t quite as experienced or you don’t have access to a lot of clubs, it can be more difficult. You can certainly look on the second hand market but this can actually be harder than you might think. For example, a good senior probably won’t have a problem with a slice and might have been hitting a nice baby draw for the last 50 years.
He or she buys a driver perhaps on the second hand market that has a light senior shaft and 13 degrees of loft. Perfect. He then watches the first drive disappear left into the trees. The problem is that this sort of driver is often aimed at beginners. It is a crutch to prevent the slice and so sits with the face closed and quite a bit of offset. Fine if you slice, absolute death if you don’t!
The answer to this is to get fit. Not necessarily going through the complete club maker fitting which can be costly and time-consuming. However, getting to hit different driver set-ups on a launch monitor is well worth it. There is a sweet spot of launch, spin and speed allied to club path that will produce the best results.
This becomes all the more important when we can’t swing as fast. My club dynamics with a driver were horrible. I was leaving tens of yards on the table in terms of what I should have been getting from my swing speed. This isn’t great, but ultimately I was hitting it far enough to make it work. If I was struggling for distance, this would have been a different story altogether.
There are many ways to play good golf and distance isn’t a necessity. However, there is no point simply accepting something that can be rectified with a simple equipment change.