You Are Never Too Old To Learn
I was fortunate enough to coerce PGA Class A Professional Danny Ackerman to spend a few minutes talking golf with me last Saturday morning. Primarily, we discussed his philosophy on teaching the @ShootingYourAge golfer- the 50+ Baby Boomer. Is it different from how he teaches a kid, or someone in their 20s at the peak of their physical ability? Is there an age when it just doesn’t make sense to take a lesson? You might be surprised at his answer.
Danny grew up in Wheeling, WV, and played college golf at West Virginia University. In 1985 he joined the Pinehurst staff, working at the resort and teaching at the Golf Advantage Schools for 11 of the 12 years he was there. He received his Class A PGA Certificate in 1993.
He left Pinehurst to become Director of Golf at Quail Hollow, east of Cleveland, Ohio, then went to the Longaberger Golf Club, where he was head pro and general manager for 17 years. (SYA Note: Longaberger, now called The Virtues is consistently ranked in The Top 100 Courses You Can Play by Golf Digest, and I’ve had the pleasure of playing it. The reputation is well deserved). Danny came full circle in 2016, coming home to Wheeling, as Director of Golf for Speidel Golf at Oglebay Resort,
Due to the new job, he said he doesn’t have time to teach very much, although is the instructor for the winner of the Ohio State Open, and for one of the top high school players in the Upper Ohio Valley.
This is Part I of two parts. We will conclude with some of Danny’s best advice next week.
“The ability to turn” is the key
SYA: DO YOU TEACH SENIOR GOLFERS DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU DO YOUNGER GOLFERS- THOSE IN THEIR TEENS, OR SOMEONE IN THEIR TWENTIES OR THIRTIES?
DA: I really don’t approach it that way. I don’t want to make an assumption that just because someone is 60 years old, they are going to have limitations or not be able to move. I want to see them hit balls and see if there are any limitations. Typically, I’ll see it with their movement, or lack of movement. That’s when I’ll proceed with some questions. What I teach, when I was working at Pinehurst and the Golf Advantage Schools down there, I put my hands on people a lot and move them around, and see what their mobility is and what their limitations are. I’ll ask, “Is this uncomfortable?” People may have a perception that they have limited mobility, and often that isn’t true, it’s just due to the lack of flexibility.
People get the club back in a lot of different ways. What I’m looking for, especially as someone is getting older, is the ability to turn. Has that diminished? That is really key. You’ve heard the saying “long swing, long career.” If you watch someone like Sam Snead swing it back, he had a full turn. Don January is another one who had a full turn, Gene Littler is another one who comes to mind. And Tom Watson, of course.
Turn doesn’t just create power, it creates consistency and repetitiveness. Men particularly, feel like they need to create power, and they get short and quick, and the swing gets too much in their hands, and they get inconsistent…
SYA: YOU’VE BEEN WATCHING ME SWING SOMEHOW, HAVEN’T YOU?
DA: Well, it’s fairly typical! In working with older golfers, the lack of physical fitness and flexibility is there. With that said, there are some things I try and do that I wouldn’t necessarily do with a 20-year old.
SYA: SO YOU’RE NOT CONCLUDING THAT BECAUSE SOMEONE IS OLDER THEY HAVE CERTAIN LIMITATIONS; YOU LOOK AT THE SWING AND SEE WHAT LIMITATIONS MIGHT BE IN THE SWING, REGARDLESS OF AGE, AND YOU GO FROM THERE?
DA: Yes. I’ve seen very few 60-year olds that turn like they did when they were 20. I try and encourage senior golfers to do things to increase their flexibility. EVERYONE can increase their flexibility. Particularly people who work at a desk or from home. As a teacher, it’s my responsibility to coach them in that direction. I can’t just stand back and give them a golf lesson and not give them the means to be able to potentially grow and improve beyond just that half hour or hour lesson.
Obviously, with all the technology, Trackman and video, etc., that’s very helpful. That’s helping young people hit it far. Instruction, including physical fitness, along with the technology allows the game to be played so much easier than it used to be.
Age Is Just A Number
SYA; IS THERE AN AGE, AT WHICH IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO TAKE A LESSON? IS IT SENSIBLE FOR AN 80-YEAR OLD, FOR EXAMPLE, TO COME AND GET A LESSON?
DA: Age is not a factor. I would say attitude is the factor. Do you want to try and do something to make yourself better?
I’ve told this story a dozen and one times: In my time at Pinehurst, I had this gentleman come into the office, and he said, “I’ve been talking to some people and they told me you’re a pretty good teacher and I want you to work with me. My handicap has jumped up 2 or 3 shots higher than it should be. Even though I’m 84 years old, I feel I can knock a couple of strokes off.”
So right there, I knew I had a guy that was willing to do whatever he could, and that’s half the battle. If you have someone who doesn’t really want it, or to whom change is uncomfortable and they don’t want to feel uncomfortable, you try and teach them through that. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable and different, and to lose your balance by making a bigger motion. But ultimately they are going to hit it a little straighter and a little better.
Part II Next Week…
Next week Danny will walk through the process. What does he look for during the first lesson? How does he determine what to work on? He will discuss the all-important subject of working with golfers with physical issues, and what it takes to actually “Shoot Your Age.”
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and speaking of Thanksgiving, thank you for reading!
Until next week, here is to Shooting Your Age!