The game of golf is tremendously popular among seniors.

Senior Full Swing and Setup Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

This is true for a variety of reasons, including the social element of the game, and the fact that you can continue playing well into your retirement years (given good health). If you are a senior player who is serious about improving your performance on the links, we hope you will find the setup and swing advice in this article to be helpful.

For the most part, the way you will want to set up and swing as a senior player is going to be the same as it would be for a player of any age. However, there are some keys points to keep in mind that impact older golfers more than the younger crowd. Ultimately, you are going to need to work on building a swing that works specifically for your needs, not the needs of another player. One of the best things about golf is the fact that there are so many different ways to swing the club successfully. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ swing, so forget about that notion – just work toward gradually improving your performance until the results you see start to line up with your goals.

As a senior golfer, you would probably be wise to avoid the temptation to totally ‘rebuild’ your swing at this point. It’s not that you are ‘too old’ to do so, as we don’t think it’s necessary to limit what you can accomplish because of your age. Rather, the issue here is the number of years you have behind you on the course. If you are a highly-experienced player with many decades of golf in your past, it is going to be quite difficult to completely redo your swing. You can make improvements, of course, but making radical changes is going to be awfully difficult – and probably unnecessary. By making the right changes, even if they are subtle, you should be able to reach your goals without more drastic action.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the setup when getting ready to hit a golf shot. Countless players just wander up to the ball, set their feet randomly in some sort of stance, and swing away. That technique might lead to positive results once in a while, but it isn’t going to be successful very often. If you want to become more consistent and be able to rely on your ball striking hole after hole and round after round, you’ll need to take the importance of your stance seriously.

The setup tips we have listed below will largely apply to golfers of all ages. However, there are some specific points contained in this section which are meant going to be particularly helpful for seniors. Read through the points below and make a plan for how you can work on improving your setup position during an upcoming practice session.

  • Square to start. As you work on settling into a solid stance, it’s best to use a square position as your default. That means that your feet are parallel to the target line at address. Some players do find success playing from an open or closed position, but there is no need to start off that way. As you work on your swing at the range, hit shots from a square position and see how you do. It might turn out that you eventually need to open or close your stance a bit to get the desired results, but the best course of action is to start square and go from there. Hopefully, the mechanics of your swing will let you keep this square stance, as that is the simplest way to set up for your shots.
  • Necessary Knee Flex. It’s hard to imagine a quality golf stance that doesn’t include flexed knees. At address, be sure to flex your knees at least slightly in order to engage your legs in the swing once the club gets moving. Some players like to use a lot of knee flex, while others use only a little. There is no right or wrong here, so feel free to experiment with varying degrees of knee flex until you find a position that you like. Even if you can’t quite get down into your stance as far as you did when you were younger, even modest knee flex can get the job done.
  • Solid posture. This is frequently an overlooked part of the stance. Once you are in position with your feet square to the target line and your knees flexed, the next point to check off is a solid posture from your waist up to your head. That means keeping your back straight while tilting out toward the ball. If you struggle with this point, think about sticking your backside out behind you a bit in the stance. That feeling usually helps to straighten out the back, even if it feels a bit odd at first. Also, you’ll want to keep your chin up and your shoulders back to avoid hunching over the ball. It can help to practice without a club in front of a mirror to learn what it feels like to put yourself into a solid posture with a straight back.
  • Relaxed hands. During the process of trying to set your body in a correct position, you might find that some tension develops in your body. That is going to be a problem once the swing begins, so fight back against that tension by focusing on keeping your hands relaxed on the club. You don’t need to squeeze the club extra tight during the swing, and doing so is actually going to interfere with your ability to make a smooth, repeatable swing. The right grip pressure is one that makes it easy for you to keep control over the club – enough tension to prevent the club from flying out of your hands – without adding extra pressure that is only going to restrict your movement. Players who struggle with relaxing their grip pressure on the full swing may benefit by practicing putts and chip shots with a softer grip, first. You can gradually work your way into bigger swings once you learn how to use a relaxed grip in the short game.
  • Making room. As you can see, there is plenty to think about when building a stance. Unfortunately, we need to add yet another point to the list – the distance that you are going to stand from the golf ball. This is a variable that is overlooked by plenty of players, but it is an important one to work on during your practice sessions. Standing too close to the ball is a relatively common problem, and one which you aren’t going to be able to recover from during the swing. When you stand to close, you basically crowd yourself out of the swing, and your arms (and the club) don’t have the room they need to whip through the hitting area. This can be a particularly troublesome problem for senior golfers, who may not have the flexibility they possessed in their younger years. Experiment during practice by standing at a few different positions away from the ball until you settle on a spot with each club that feels comfortable and produces good results.

Don’t be intimidated by the list you see above. Sure, there is a lot to work on with regard to your stance, but the best way to approach it is to just work on one thing at a time until you have made significant progress. It might not be particularly exciting to work on your stance at the range, but this is one of the best ways to spend your practice time. You can make great strides in your overall performance if you are willing to do the work required to build a proper setup position.

Senior-Specific Full Swing Tips

Senior-Specific Full Swing Tips

The advice we offered in the previous section included a couple of age-specific notes, but for the most part it was advice that could apply to any golfer. In this section, however, we are going to go in a different direction. We are going to talk about the swing itself, and we’ll be providing you with advice that is meant specifically for senior players. Of course, not all seniors are created equal, so some of these tips might not apply properly to your game. Think through each of the tips and decide which you should try for yourself, and which you should leave to the side.

  • Flattening the swing plane. As a senior, you may find that the impact you make with the ground when hitting an iron shot feels a bit harsher than it did in the past. If your hands and wrists are not appreciating the way it feels to take a big divot, it might be time to think about flattening out your swing plane slightly. Using a flatter swing plane should help you take less turf through the hitting area, reducing the impact on your hands and wrists. In addition to the potential physical benefit, you may also find that your shots travel a bit farther as the result of using this flatter path through the ball. There are a couple steps you can take to work toward a flatter swing. First, try standing just slightly farther away from the ball at address. Also, focus on making a good turn with your shoulders as you go back, doing your best to turn your back to the target. The combination of giving yourself plenty of space and making a good shoulder turn is going to get you most of the way to a shallower swing.
  • Take some extra time at the top. To be honest, this is a tip which can also help plenty of golfers in younger age brackets. With that said, this is a great tip for seniors to consider because many in their retirement years will have lost a bit of flexibility over the years. If you don’t have quite the same amount of flexibility as you did in years gone by, you will find that your backswing is shorter, and the tempo of your swing could be rushed. Even if you can’t regain that lost flexibility, you can restore the tempo of your swing by taking some extra time during the transition. Try letting the club ‘hang’ at the top for just a moment while your lower body gets started on its move toward the target. This might feel odd at first, but with a little bit of practice you may start to see some rather encouraging results.
  • Don’t fight for a full finish. For younger players, it is generally a good practice to work all the way up into a full finish at the end of the swing. That is certainly a good thing for seniors to do as well, but don’t think of it as being required. If you are having trouble getting all the way up to a full finish due to decreased flexibility of another physical limitation, don’t worry about it. The important thing here is that you swing through the ball aggressively, and don’t stop applying effort at the moment of impact. As long as you are swinging through the ball nicely, it’s okay if you don’t quite reach that picture-perfect pose that you see the professionals hold when they are finished with a shot.

It’s inevitable that parts of your swing are going to change over time as you age. We all get older, and you shouldn’t waste too much time fretting about the way your swing has been altered due to physical changes. Rather, just make the most of what you can still do with the club. Even if you can’t move the club like you used to, or even like other senior players in your group, you can still have a great time out on the links.

Finding Your Ball Flight

Finding Your Ball Flight

One of the best feelings in golf is standing over the ball knowing that you can accurately predict which way the ball is going to curve while it is in the air. You might not hit your target accurately every time but knowing which way the ball is going to turn is a huge advantage over much of your competition on the course. Of course, plenty of work on the driving range is going to be required before you have the ability to produce the expected ball flight time after time.

If you are one of the many senior golfers who would like to squeeze a few more yards out of his or her shots, turning to a draw is a smart decision. There is nothing wrong with playing a fade, but a fade usually won’t give you the same kind of distance as a draw, especially off the tee. Not only does a draw lead to a more penetrating ball flight for most players, it also helps the ball to pick up some bounce and roll after it lands. Even with no change in swing speed, you might be able to pick up significant yardage by transitioning from a fade to a draw.

There are a few basic steps you can take to encourage the ball to turn over from right to left as it flies.

  • Move the ball back in your stance slightly. Moving the ball back in your stance just a bit is going to help you contact the ball earlier in your swing arc. That should make it easier to create draw spin, even if you don’t change anything else about your swing. Be careful, however, not to move the ball too far back in your stance, as that is going to lead to a steep downswing and a long list of problems. If you try using this adjustment on the range, make the change gradually, only moving the ball back a short distance at a time until you find a good spot.
  • Relax your grip pressure. We touched on this point earlier in the article, but it comes up again here because of the way a relaxed grip is going to help you release the club through the hitting area. The club is going to have to turn over if you are going to hit a draw, and a tight grip will restrict that release significantly. Using proper grip pressure is good for your game overall, and it is good for your efforts to produce a draw.
  • Use the proper shaft flex. It will be nearly impossible to hit a draw if you are using a shaft that is too stiff or too heavy for the dynamics of your swing. While the right equipment can’t play the game for you, using the proper clubs does allow you the freedom to work on the kinds of shots you’d like to have in your arsenal. Consider taking the time to go through a club fitting session at your local golf shop or course in order to find gear that is going to suit your needs properly.

Make no mistake – you don’t have to play a draw in order to be a successful senior golfer. If you are currently playing a fade and you are happy with the way it is working, by all means stick with it. However, if you’d like to find a few extra yards without picking up swing speed, turning to a draw is the best way to make that happen.

Never Forget the Short Game

Never Forget the Short Game

We’ve talked about the setup and swing for senior golfers in this article, and you certainly need to have both of those things dialed in if you want to lower your scores. However, no low scores are going to be achieved without a reliable short game to go along with your swing. If you can’t chip and putt at a reasonable level, you won’t be able to take advantage of what you accomplish from tee to green. Unfortunately, many golfers (of all ages) neglect the short game as they instead choose to spend their time hitting full shots on the range. It’s important to balance these two halves of the game in order to make strides toward better performance.

One of the best ways to improve your short game is to replicate the situations you are likely to see on the course. It’s common for golfers to drop several golf balls onto the practice green and roll them one by one to a far-off hole. But how often do you do that on the course? Never – instead, you only get one chance at each short game shot. With that in mind, design your practice sessions so they feel more like what you are going to encounter when you play. Hit one shot at a time, evaluate the results, and adjust as necessary. You may hit fewer overall shots this way, but those that you do hit are going to be more impactful and valuable in the long run.

Each time you head out to work on your golf game, decide how much time you have available to practice and then divide that time up between the long game and the short game. Ideally, you would dedicate half of your time to the full swing and half to the short game. That is going to make sure you get the repetitions necessary to build a reliable putting stroke and chipping motion. Also, practice that many short shots will develop your touch, which is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article on improving your play as a senior golfer. We hope the advice contained above will be helpful as you work toward lower scores and more fun with your friends out on the links. Good luck!