You’re Still Never Too Old To Learn
Last week we began with an interview with Danny Ackerman, PGA Class A Professional at the Speidel Golf Club at Oglebay Resort. This week, Danny is back with more advice, and describes what he looks for, and how he approaches teaching someone who is older or maybe dealing with injuries.
The First Step
DA: Once I’ve made an initial assessment- good setup, good posture, good grip-
what I call my first eye- I look at a person and see how they can turn and swing on a semblance of a plane. Seeing that turn, or lack of, I see how we can increase flexibility.
I’ve seen that a lot of people start to want to control the ball, and I think that’s human nature as we get older. We’ve been taught to keep it in play, and our turn is reduced due to wanting to control the ball. It’s my job to break down some of those thoughts and say, “Get your back to the target,” and then see what starts to happen: More distance, greater consistency.
People then think, “Wow, I have great rhythm now.” No, you’re turning back far enough now to create rhythm, rather than being short and quick. Short and quick makes a swing hard to repeat.
SYA: DO YOU THINK THERE IS SWING THOUGHT BAGGAGE THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE AT 60 THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 20? WHERE ALL THE MISTAKES OVER THE YEARS HAVE PILED UP? DO YOU START TO PLAY IT SAFE, PLUS VARIOUS SWING TIPS OVER THE YEARS THAT MAY HAVE OVERWHELMED YOU?
DA: That can certainly play into it, no doubt about it. People who read a lot can get into that trap more than others.
There is definitely a point where people want to feel under control. The first time you turn them and move them around, they might actually lose their balance, and they’ll say, “I don’t know about this…” But that’s part of the learning curve and improving. If you turn more in the backswing, you are going to turn more in the forward swing.
Imagine a spring attached to the ground. If you just pull it to one side, it’s going to swing back and forth. But if you wind it up tight, it’s going to spring around and the energy will actually move past and through where it initially started. The same thing will happen with your golf swing. If you turn back better, you will turn through better.
When you do it the first time, it will feel unnatural and you’ll feel uncomfortable and out of control. The analogy I give is this: Did a six-year old girl on the balance beam do back flips on the first day? That’s not the way it works. She learned to walk on it, then after a few days they had her do a spin on it. Then later she learned to do a flip.
So, I tell people, just keep doing this. You’ll be amazed at how your balance will come to be, but you have to trust that turn in the backswing, and the energy that wants to go forward- so let it!
A lot of senior players relate to Gary Player. He won 9 majors by crossing over and stepping into the ball (on his follow-through). Move through. If you lose your balance, and you’re not a perfect statue on your finish, I’m not worried about that.
The Golfer With Physical Issues
SYA: YOU SAID THE NEXT STAGE WOULD BE THOSE WITH SOME PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS- SIZE, WEIGHT, BODY BUILD, INJURIES, ETC. YOU CAN USE ME AS AN EXAMPLE THERE. I HAD BOTH HIPS REPLACED AFTER COMING BACK FROM IRAQ. AND I KNOW A LOT OF GUYS WHO HAVE HAD A HIP, OR KNEE REPLACED OR SHOULDER SURGERY AS THEY’VE GOTTEN OLDER.
DA: I’ve had both hips replaced also. I had bi-lateral hip replacement 9 years ago. And I’m so much more flexible now than I was in the years leading up to it. And you can go down the list of golfers who have had it done- Nicklaus, Watson, down the list. And my doctor, who was a golfer, said there is a long list of guys who have had it done and gone back on tour and been successful. As for knee replacements, the doctor said they’ve not seen any dramatic positive effects as it relates to golf. The knee rehab is tougher to go through, and most don’t put themselves through the extreme that they should to get back to full use.
So with that, I’m looking to create more motion and more turn. I would narrow their stance so the hips can move more. Maybe drop the back foot a little to allow more turn and get behind the ball. In extreme cases, I’d let the person get softer with their arms. We’ve heard our whole lives to keep the left arm straight to get width in the golf swing, but if they can’t turn as far as they should, you’ve got to figure out a way to get it back there. But that would be an extreme case and the last thing I’d want to see somebody do. I’d rather see them lift their left heel and narrow their stance to increase their turn and motion. But you gotta do what you gotta do to create motion. And there will come a time when if you keep losing distance, you start moving up on tees.
From a sheer instructional standpoint, the modern golf swing is very stable in the lower half of the body with a turn in the upper body and clear like crazy and get your arms to the back of the ball. As a senior player, you’d get a little softer in the lower part of the body and let that move more to create a bigger turn. To emphasize: Turn, in my opinion, is key. It creates power and it creates consistency.
SYA: IT’S COINCIDENTAL THAT THE NAME OF THIS IS SHOOTING YOUR AGE, BUT THAT’S SOMETHING I WANT TO DO AT SOME POINT, AND REALISTICALLY I’M LOOKING AT WHEN I’M 80 YEARS OLD AT LEAST. SO I HAVE TO STAY IN GOOD ENOUGH SHAPE AND STAY FLEXIBLE AND EVERYTHING ELSE IN ORDER TO HOPEFULLY
MAKE THAT HAPPEN SOME DAY.
DA: My father has shot 11 strokes under his age 6 or 7 times. I marveled at watching him, and I attribute his ability to do that being his physical fitness, and stretching, and keeping his legs in shape to maintain what he had. Unfortunately, too many people don’t do that, and stop playing when they get to 75 years old when they could play longer, but it becomes very difficult for them.
I can’t emphasize that enough, both for quality of life and quality of golf.
Final Thoughts from the Pro
- I always think it’s good to get fitted for clubs. The senior golfer may need to have a different shaft- a softer shaft.
- When to move up a set of tees is a tough decision. It needs to be based on keeping golf fun. If you’re hitting driver and hybrid on every par 4, then you probably need to move up a set of tees. Guys that were very skilled find that harder to do- to admit they should move up a set. It should be based on what your second shot is into the hole. Get up there to where you are hitting a comparable shot to where you were hitting when you were younger and stronger. If you used to hit driver and 7 iron, play a set of tees that lets you hit a driver and 7 iron.
Danny Ackerman is the Director of Golf at Oglebay Resort.
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Thanks again to Danny Ackerman, and thank YOU for reading Shooting Your Age!