Golf is a game of contradictions in many ways.

Senior Impact Lesson by PGA Teaching Pro Dean Butler

For example, when you want the ball to go up, you need to hit down. If you want the ball to turn to the left, you need to swing out to the right. One of the many reasons that it takes so long to learn how to play golf is the simple fact that you need to get used to these many contradictions.

Another curious piece of the golf puzzle is how a game that takes so long to play can have so little time spent with the ball actually being struck. Each time you hit the ball, the club only stays in contact with the ball for just a fraction of a second. Even if you take a hundred shots to make your way around the course, you’ll still only have contacted the ball for a few seconds at the most. Considering it often takes in excess of four hours to play a round of golf, it’s interesting to think how little of that time is spend physically contacting the ball with the club.

In this article, we are going to offer tips for senior golfers who would like to improve their performance at the all-important moment of impact. If you can put your body – and the club – in the right position when you strike the ball, a good result will be likely. This is easier said than done, of course, as there are many variables that need to come together just right in order to strike the ball properly at the bottom of the swing.

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.

What is the Goal?

What is the Goal?

Sure, you probably know that you want to strike the ball ‘solidly’ at impact, but what does that mean? In this section, we are going to highlight some key points that add up to equal a great impact. Certainly, the task of achieving an excellent strike is more complicated than the points listed below will lead you to believe, but understanding these points is a great start.

  • Center of the face. This is the point that you are almost certainly familiar with already. When you strike the ball with a full swing – or pretty much any swing, for that matter – you are going to attempt to find the center of the club face at impact. That means the ball is going to strike the face as close to the middle as possible. If you do find the middle of the face, the impact you make with the ball will feel great and you should get as much distance out of the shot as you are going to get based on your swing speed and other factors. As you gain experience in the game, you will get better and better at recognizing your off-center hits just by feel. When you hit the ball out near the toe, or if off the heel, impact won’t feel quite right and you will lose some distance on the shot. It’s important to note that no golfers hit the ball on the sweet spot each time, so don’t feel too bad about making poor contact from time to time. Obviously, the goal is to hit as many solid shots as possible, since finding the center of the face is going to improve your chances of a positive outcome on the shot at hand.
  • Square at impact. It is easy to focus solely on finding the center of the face at impact, but that is only part of the battle. Another important piece of the puzzle is to put the face in a square position, so you can send the ball in the right direction. In this context, ‘square’ means that the club face should be perpendicular to the target you have selected for the shot. If the face is open or closed at impact, rather than square, you’ll almost certainly miss your target to some degree. Just like with hitting the center of the face, squaring the face properly is not something that you are going to do every time. This is a challenging task, since the club is moving so quickly through the hitting area. More than mechanics, the ability to square the club up nicely comes down to the rhythm and timing of your swing.
  • Eyes on the ball. One of the few advantages you have working in your favor in the game of golf is the fact that the ball is not moving when you are trying to hit it. Unlike a sport like baseball, where the ball is moving at a high rate of speed, the ball will just be sitting on the ground or on a tee as you swing. To take full advantage of this feature of golf, make sure that you are keeping your eyes on the ball from the start of the swing all the way through impact. It might be tempting to look up early to see where the ball is going to go, but that is a pointless move to make. The ball is going to go where it goes based on the swing you make and the impact you achieve – it won’t care if you are watching it fly or not. So, keep your head down, watch the ball through impact to make it easier to achieve quality contact, and only look up once you are sure the ball is gone.

If you can check off the three points we listed above on a frequent basis, you’ll be in great shape. A shot that is struck on the center of the face with a square clubface and your eyes looking at the ball is very likely to succeed. Perfection is not an attainable goal here but work hard to improve your technique on the range, so you can become more and more consistent as time moves along.

The Underlying Keys

The Underlying Keys

As we explained earlier in the article, the moment of impact lasts for a very brief moment in time. You don’t have nearly enough time at the bottom of the swing to adjust for any mistakes that you may have made, so you want to put solid underlying fundamentals in place that will lead you into the right position. Ideally, a great impact position will just happen naturally because you will have made a great swing leading up to that moment.

The following points are great areas to focus your attention while working on your game at the range. If these basic fundamental elements of your swing improve, it’s almost inevitable that your impact position will improve, as well.

  • Balance starts it all. If you want to strike the ball properly, you need to be balanced. While it can be hard to get golfers to agree on much of anything, you will find very little argument within the game regarding the importance of balance. When you are balanced nicely during your swing and at impact, you have a good stance to achieve a clean strike. Should you let your weight wander from side to side, however, it’s always going to be tough to put the club where it needs to be. There are plenty of causes of poor balance, and those are a topic for another article, but just know that balance is something that should receive plenty of attention during practice. If you find that you are having trouble holding your finish position nicely at the end of each swing, that’s a sign that your balance is not where it needs to be. Before you bother fixing anything else within your swing, make sure that any lingering balance issues are solved.
  • The lower body playing its role. It’s easy to focus only on the way your upper body moves during the swing, since it is the upper body that actually has control of the club. However, your lower body has an extremely important job to do in the downswing, so don’t slack off on this part of your technique. As soon as the club has reached the top of the backswing, your lower body needs to get to work rotating aggressively toward the target. This is one of the areas of the swing that gives amateur players the most trouble. Getting started properly with the lower body is crucial because it is going to help you gain speed in the downswing, and it is also going to put your body in the right position for a clean strike.
  • Staying in rhythm. The tempo of the golf swing is something that the average player tends to overlook. Many golfers wind up obsessing over the positions that they put their body and the club in during the swing, and they forget about the dynamic aspect of how the clubs moves from start to finish. The golf swing is not a collection of static positions that you stitch together to form a motion. Rather, it needs to be a cohesive unit, where everything builds naturally until the moment of impact when the ball is sent into the distance. To make sure your swing is working correctly in this way, it’s smart to focus on rhythm and tempo during practice. Do your best to maintain an even tempo from start to finish, without any sudden changes in speed. With a smooth rhythm, you’ll be more likely to make good contact, and you’ll also be more likely to maintain that quality of contact through your rounds – even under pressure.
  • Hands past the ball at impact. This is an often-overlooked ball striking key. If you can get your hands into a position that is just past the location of the ball – especially with your irons – you’ll be in good position to achieve a powerful downward strike. The best way to encourage your hands to get past the ball at impact is to start them in that position at address. For a standard iron shot, try taking your stance with your hands just barely to the left of the position of the ball (as you are looking down from address). By starting in that position, it will be easier to get back to the same position after the club has moved back and through.

It’s never a bad idea to work on the fundamentals of your golf swing. Spending your time on the range working on the basic keys of the swing will go a long way toward helping you find good impact positions up and down the bag. The players with solid fundamentals tend to be those who perform best round after round, rather than having streaks of good play followed by poor play. Build your game on a foundation of great fundamentals and you’ll almost certainly be happy with how your game progresses.

The Importance of Impact for Senior Golfers

The Importance of Impact for Senior Golfers

Make no mistake – achieving a good impact position is important for all golfers, regardless of age. There is, however, an argument to be made for impact being even more important for senior golfers than those in younger generations. As a senior player, you might not have quite the same physical strength you did in your younger years, meaning you need to maximize what you get out of each swing by making the best contact possible. If you can improve the quality of the impact you make with the ball at the bottom of the swing, you might be able to avoid losing much yardage even if your swing speed has trailed off by a few miles per hour.

When you make contact on or very near to the center of the club face, you will optimize the amount of energy from your swing that is transferred into the ball. If your swing speed has dropped by 5% or 10% in recent years, finding the sweet spot more frequently is going to help you get more distance out of the speed you have left. Those lost miles per hour might not be coming back, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on striking the ball as precisely as possible to send the ball well down the fairway.

It’s not just driving distance which can benefit from great impact. If you are good at making clean contact, you will be able to add more backspin to your shots than if your impact was a little questionable. With more spin, you’ll be able to stop your shots quicker after they land on the green. Everyone loves to stop approach shots quickly, but it’s even nicer as a senior golfer if your trajectory has flattened out over the years. Without the ability to hit the ball so high up into the sky, playing shots with a higher spin rate would be a big boost. That increased spin will help you hold more greens from longer distances, something that is going to come in handy regularly.

One other area of the game that seniors can benefit from improved impact is approach shots out of the rough. As you know, it can be tough to get the ball up and out of a lie in the deep grass, meaning you might not be able to attack the green with your approach. Playing from the rough can be particularly tough on senior golfers who don’t have the forearm and hand strength that they did in previous years. For instance, those with arthritis in their hands might struggle from the rough to hold the club head steady while moving through impact. Finding a good impact position isn’t going to completely solve this problem but delivering the club properly will go a long way toward improving your outcomes. Playing well from the rough isn’t all about raw swing speed – sometimes, executing a fundamentally-sound swing is enough to get your ball where it needs to go.

As you can see, there is a lot to gain if you manage to improve the way you strike the golf ball. When you think about it, it should be obvious that ball striking is at the heart of your performance on the course. After all, this is the only moment when what you do in the swing is actually able to impact how the ball travels through the air. When you think about it that way, the motivation to work on your ball striking should not be hard to find.

Impact in the Short Game

Impact in the Short Game

If you think impact position and quality of contact only matters when you are making full swings, that is a mistake. It’s also important to execute great contact when hitting short game shots like putts, chips, and pitches. No matter how far away from the hole you happen to be, making good contact is always going to be in your best interest. To finish up our article, we’d like to highlight a few important points related to the moment of impact in the short game.

Yes, it matters when putting. With a putter in your hands on the green, it doesn’t seem like you’ll need to worry about making good contact. After all, it’s pretty easy to roll a putt without making fat contact, or anything like that. So, can you just ignore the importance of impact position when rolling putts? Of course not. You need to pay careful attention on making contact on the center of the putter face. A big part of putting is speed control and the only way to accurately control your speed is to make solid contact. If you let the ball stray out toward the toe or in toward the heel, the decreased quality of contact is going to cause the ball to come up short most of the time. Also, making contact away from the center of the face may cause the putter to twist, leaving the ball to wander off line. When you practice your putting, pay as much attention to the quality of the contact you make as anything else you work on.

  • Clean chip if you want to check it up. Playing chip shots with plenty of spin is a great way to control the distance of the shot. When you have a clean fairway lie, you can strive to strike the ball cleanly and impart significant spin that will cause the ball to stop quickly after just one or two bounces. This is a great way to play some of your chip shots, but it is only going to work if you make good contact. Scuffing the grass a bit before hitting the ball, or hitting the ball a little thin, is going to cause you to miss out on the spin you are planning on. So, when you decide to play a spinning chip, you need to focus your attention to finding a clean strike at the bottom.
  • For a good pitch, catch it solid. Pitching is a part of the game that tends to give amateur players of all ages a lot of trouble. Some of those issues stem from the fact that many golfers struggle to hit their pitch shots cleanly. If you don’t make good contact, it will be nearly impossible to judge how far the ball is going to go (much like on your putts). If you’d like to get better at hitting pitches, simply focus on making clean contact over and over again in practice. With that piece of the puzzle in place, you’ll be surprised how simple pitch shots can become.
  • A great impact position can take you a long way on the golf course. You still need to do plenty of other things well – like make good decisions and keep your focus under pressure – but striking solid shots is a huge part of playing this game. As a senior player, this fundamental is a great place to focus your attention and effort. Hit it solid and there is a good chance you will be happy with how your game progresses. Good luck!