Does your golf game have a ‘best before’ date?

Industry analyst David Goodman has some good news for older golfers looking to extend their playing days and lower their scores.

At what age can you reach your peak in golf?

Sometimes I hear comments about my golf goals that permeate the air like a land fill site. They come from friends, family, and my own head.

“You practice a lot, play four times a week; do you really think you can get better? You’re sixty freakin two! Your days are done.”

At times I think these comments are more directed towards my life than my game.

Nonetheless either my pride or my stupidity doesn’t allow me to believe I cannot continue to improve for many years to come. After all, aren’t athletes supposed to strive for constant improvement? I find it sacrilegious to hear forty year olds lamenting their decline as if they played their best when they were twenty five.

Hence the topic I now invite you to ponder regarding the future of your own game. In answering this question I will not give you the stock line “it depends.”  In fact I am going to go out on a limb and give you a specific age I think you can reach your peak. I am making predictions based on normal golfers, not those scratch or plus handicap freaks who were shooting in the sixties when they were twenty, it would be difficult if not impossible for these golfers to improve on an already great game. But for the rest of us lackeys…

Reaching your golf peak later in life is very realistic but there are certain obvious requirements such as health, an unwavering desire to improve, great mental discipline, and the love of practice. Lest you think this is all simplistic gobbledegook, think about some of the incredible accomplishments of ‘old’ people:

  • Canadian marathoner Ed Whitlock ran the Toronto marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes, age 82.
  • Diana Nyad swam from Florida to Cuba (possibly to escape Trump) age 64.
  • William Baldwin walked over a canyon in Colorado on a tightrope, age 82 (and I get nervous at a 4 foot putt!).
  • Gladys Burrill ran her first marathon at 86 and is still running them at 92.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that major declines in sports performance don’t occur until the age of 75.

How can we get to and stay on the right path in order to continue to improve?  Of course being healthy is crucial. While good health might require a certain degree of luck, good coaches know that luck is a by-product of hard work. If you eat right, exercise, stretch, move about as opposed to becoming friends with the couch and TV, your joints (elbows, hips, knees and ankles) will most likely be in good working order by the time you reach eighty.

Good health equates to high energy levels, which will be necessary to improve as we age. Health experts advise you to take up yoga. I’ve tried it and hate it, and, it’s very tough. Yoga at home alone via your iPad is extremely boring. However, if you get into the habit of stretching ten minutes three to four times a week you will be amazed at how flexible you will become and stay through later years.

Great mental discipline and practicing will require good coaching. As we get older we usually lose or lessen our requirement for stroked egos or those words in our brains that keep saying we can figure out our golf swing on our own. How’s that working for you? As that guy in the commercials who recently passed away, Harvey Brooker says, “If you could have done it alone, you would have done it already.” Taking lessons with a good coach even later in life will allow you to identify what you have to work on technically for the rest of your golfing years. You can’t rely on getting much stronger, therefore proper technique becomes more critical. Perfecting your fundamentals will allow you to improve now more than ever. You no doubt are getting to an age where you’ll have more time and disposal income as well to practice, so get a coach and practice perfectly.

Let’s now slither over to some exciting predictions.  I have broken up the game by different components.  The derived numbers were not made from any double blind study, statistical reference or science, but by observation of golfers from their sixties to nineties. And some guess work.

  1. The driver; 68. I believe at 68 you won’t drive the ball any further, although in the last two years I played with two men who were 75 and still increasing their distance (over 250 yards) thanks to improved technique and club/shaft technology.
  1. Approach shots from 100-200 yards; 73. The distances closer to 200 yards will require more strength, so past your 73rd birthday these will become more challenging. Again, lighter shafts and more lofted hybrids, plus future technologies will no doubt assist you here.
  1. Approach shots from 100 yards in; 75. This might be the one category you can really put the hammer down and better your score and remain competitive. Consistently improving your technique and feel should not be hindered by age.
  1. Short game; 77. Shaky hands and diminishing eyesight may play a factor for some, but with possible exception of bunker shots you certainly don’t require strength for pitching and chipping.
  1. Putting; 75. Loss of nerve control may affect some, otherwise there’s no reason why we can’t improve our putting beyond 75.
  1. Mental and strategic game; 80. At this age I think you’ll hardly get nervous about making a shot, we’re just happy to be alive, and you’ll know how to play the game strategically. The only question will be whether you remember what time Wheeltrans picks you up after the round.
  1. Your scores; 75. Naturally the tee blocks you play from might affect this number.

This article is about the age you can reach your maximum potential as a golfer but it doesn’t mean you’ll begin to decline at that age. If you remain healthy and active there’s no reason you can’t maintain your peak performance for years after this, even into your eighties.   It’s obvious I’m the eternal optimist who hopes I’m talking about myself.

In any case, no matter how we end up playing in the years to come, golf is one activity I think we can at least make good shots from time to time in our old age. That’s more than I can say about hockey and sex.

David Goodman
David is an overgrown kid still who still believes he can play a decent game of squash and hockey when he’s not on the course or range working on his game. Long gone from the medical industry, David loves studying the social/psychological implications golf has on the lives of its participants.

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