Golf: The Last Frontier

At age 75, golf has invited me in, though I don’t deserve it.  All my life I have been leery of golf. To me it was a pastime based on failure, and the measurement of failure and the scoring of failure. What, after all, is Par? It’s a goal that most won’t ever reach, and those who do are always sorry when they don’t go under Par. Because golf seemed such a philosophy of despair, wrapped up in a tortured premise of never-quite-good enough, I enthusiastically rejected golf for most of my life. I am glad I did. By age 75, I had missed a lifetime of frustration.

Many of us baby boomers never played golf, and we probably developed attitude blocks against it by the time we reached age 65. It may have seemed to us that golf was the pastime of the idle rich or those aspiring to be idle or rich. Or golf may have seemed the detour of the non-athletic adults around the rigors of competitive sport. Or golf may have seemed like the business vehicle of the rising middle class, clubs for clubs, so to speak, to fill out your networking dance card.

For the most part, golf did not seem to apply to us. It certainly did not apply to me. I took golf in physical education in 1960 and found it a poor substitute for lawn croquet. Instead I played soccer for the University of Washington and then in city leagues for some time thereafter. Then I played community basketball with a bunch of lawyers on Sunday mornings for years. Finally, in need of less debilitating exercise at about age 55, I came to tennis. It was great fun. Tennis can be as athletic as you make it, but it always has more movement, more speed, and more real play than I would ever see in golf. And yet…

On my 75th birthday I decided to learn golf. It began as a market segmentation strategy…but ended up something else.  Players my age were dropping out of tennis with the accumulated maladies of age. They were becoming slow…fast. Most of those still standing could not move across the court to a well-placed ball. So partners were becoming limited, in doubles but especially in singles. I knew that in tennis I would probably be slowed by age 80, and at best a pasteboard image by age 85. And yet I saw older men – and older ladies — knocking around golf courses at age 95.

So that is why I set out to learn this thing I had rejected in my youth, and yawned at in middle age. And now, at age 75, I realize I have but a short time to learn my way into this new sport. Amazingly, I found that in golf whether you are athlete or couch potato, man or woman, lean or chunky — at age 75 all of your gifts must homogenize into one mindful focus on the ball. Contact is all, and when you can constantly make contact, stick-to-ball, you can create your own game. It doesn’t have to look like the golf that instructors are trying to teach people under 50. It can look like whatever works for you. You don’t need to hurt yourself or twist yourself into pretzels. At age 75 the pressure is off and, like a regression to childhood, with golf you can finally have fun.

I believe I am going to like this golf.

In these blog postings about my meandering path into golf, you may not find an excellent guide to golf, but I hope you can agree that golf means there is life remaining after age 75.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

Demons and Shortcuts

During my 75th year, Golf was waiting patiently for me to get a few things out of my system.

In the 58 years since I had my Physical Education quarter in Golf, I made a few miserable attempts to go out on the course with friends. A few demons emerged that I would have to take care of if I were to start golf at age 75. Since I had been in the high-tech world of Seattle, I thought that (of course) new technologies could take care of all my problems.

One problem in those misadventures was that I continually lost balls off the tee, and spent most of the afternoon flummoxing around the woods and brush which bound the fairways in Seattle. I lost enough balls to dent my next paycheck and held everyone back at almost every shot. They were kind –but it was not fun. Through the semiconductor years and the software development years, I kept swearing I would try golf again if they would develop a signal-emitting ball that I could track with my cell phone via satellite. Actually, for a number of years I felt safe that they would never develop one, since it would also continue emitting signals from far underwater, where a number of my other balls also rested. Who needs a symphony of lost balls sending gargling signals from under the lily pads.

And then someone invented the locatable ball that would beep on your cellphone screen and lead you to itself. It was some British firm (whom Americans inevitably trust) that said they had a start up company and would have the balls for sale in the next spring. However — so I wouldn’t miss out — they would gladly take orders to deliver the first ones them. I gladly put down $36 for six of them, ready to begin golf anew when they were delivered. It has been two years now, and the balls are not here yet. Perhaps they lost my address. I’ve lost their address and the official-looking receipt they sent, so I am hesitant to call it a scam. I would never have started golf again, but a YouTube video showed me how to hit the ball somewhat straighter, and that was better than having a forest locator anyway. (I’m still expecting to see those magic balls in the mail…any day now.)

The other problem I had with golf was dragging 12-14 clubs around, up and down hill and dale. I had yet to learn why they would saddle the novice with all that iron. (I still am not sure why you need that many clubs.) So then I saw the single telescoping club that would fit into a briefcase, and whose head would adjust to every loft, (and even become the putter). I thought that (- wow -) with that freedom, with essentially a single length club, my path into golf would be significantly shorter. There are a few makers of these multiple head clubs, and the Divnick one I got was quite sufficient to learn the game in one stroke, so to speak, just changing the loft to get more distance, or more height, out of the very same club. I do think that adjustable single head and one single club length, accelerated my understanding and made my single stroke a more manageable way to learn.

Not everyone would agree that this was the best way to begin, but I started out in the cold and wet December of my 75th birthday mastering this single club, and making decent progress on the 1500 yard 9 hole “executive” course near my home. I was 75 years old and what they call a “super senior”. That short course costs me $6 even today.  Full of novice gusto,  I even considered running between holes with that one adjustable club, and I understand there is actually an official variation called Speed Golf. But after jogging a couple of holes I realized I was 75 years old, after all, and not half-equipped for this kind of biathlon. (Possibly you won’t be either.)

I don’t regret either of these bizarre avenues for you to get into Golf in your belated years. Later I determined a mix of some traditional methods and many new trade-offs which befitted my age. We’re all different — especially by age 75, and hopefully you will see a path into golf which is not quite so convoluted.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

Mind Your Body

Recently I talked about Speed Golf for golfers over age 75. Seriously, you should not try this at home. By age 75, both men and women have to be wary of what may hurt their bodies. Many women (and too few men) worry about any new activity that can create stress on bones and muscles. Most of these worries have a good foundation, but if you move cautiously into golf, you can avoid causing injury to unused muscles and tendons at the first.

It doesn’t help, of course that most instruction for beginning golfers aims straight at the 20-40 year old group. Thus, almost no golf instructor, and no book, will help you assess potential physical challenges before you start. So at age 75, we just start and try to be like the cookie cutter image of a golfer, and we learn by pain alone. Pain chews us up and spits us out. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you can anticipate certain kinds of injuries that older golfers have, you can 1. Stretch and strengthen 2. Learn a few proper techniques…and 3. Take it easy on yourself at first. I will share a few of these only because the real experts tend to ignore people over 75:

Walking is the key first step. Even if you think you will drive a cart everywhere, you will still need to walk from the cart to the ball and back to the cart. Personally, I have come to prefer walking the course with a push roller. Push rollers run around $100 (and up for bells and whistles). The advantage is not only exercise. If you learn to hit the ball straight, you can make reasonable time even with moderate fairway shots, and go many places a cart cannot go.

And then of course, if the cart is an option you may save about $15 a day in its rental. You will have many chances to travel by cart, but you may come as I have to prefer strolling with a roller. It may come to about 4 miles walking, but for the afternoon you will go about 1 mile an hour, so its not too aggressive for the benefits walking the course gives you. So as far as preparing for the problems of golf to you body, walking at a slow pace seems to be OK in most assessments.

Contrary to testosterone-fueled assumptions by many young bucks in golf, swinging a golf club can be a rhythmic and not a violent affair. But if you want to anticipate the common hazards of golf to the you as an older golfer, they do mostly seem to fall in categories related to the swing. I’ll give you what I have learned about the Swing stress on the back, the hips, and last of all the arms, each in a different post, and with some personal experience I definitely want to help you avoid. If I can give you a simple anticipation of new physical demands that your body can easily accommodate itself to, and some gradual introduction of your muscles to the task, then there is a good chance that this abbreviated time we have to learn and play golf will not be hampered by pain at all.

Just think…Physical activity without pain after age 75.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

The Future of Your Back

One of my major misconceptions at the age of 40 was that the classic golf swing looked inherently stupid. We who were old enough had seen Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and even President Eisenhower in this sort of bizarre looking position with the golf club over their shoulder and their right heel up, balancing, it seemed, on one slanted toe while the other toe pointed of in a seemingly random direction. Now when I went out to hit a bucket of golf balls one day at age 40, I swore I would never look that stupid playing golf. I set my feet apart in a solid balanced position, and hit about 60 golf balls (a few of them towering out over the range in the way that brings golfers back for more).

I did not walk normally again for several months. Funny enough, only when I reached age 75, and began to learn golf, did I realize I had been the stupid one.

Luckily, golf videos are now rampant on the Internet. As with most of the Internet, some percentage of it must be useful. Whatever topic occurs the most, with the same basic message, appears to have the most credibility. It appeared to me that EVERY instructor and EVERY professional on television seemed to end their swing in the same stupid pose. It looked to me like a silly pigeon-toed pirouette from an old Jerry Lewis movie, but these golf people were not slapstick. They really believed in this pose, and never forgot to end this way. What was the deep secret of ending with your right toe up and your left foot pointed straight ahead.?

At some point my curiosity overwhelmed my incredulity.  I knew your feet and legs started in a strong parallel position across from the ball. I knew to shift the weight from the right foot almost totally to the left as you swing. I then picked up a driver and went slowly through the swing motion as I would  have done natively, and naturally. But even swinging that slowly, there was a slight pull in my lower back.  Remembering I had been almost crippled at the driving range 30 years before, and I sadly suspected this residual quirk meant I would never ever be able to play golf.

So then I tried the swing arc again , shifting my weight as the club swung from left to right. But this time I added the stupid little foot dance. Hmm…no back pressure. Could it be…? That that little right toe lift takes all the strain of a golf swing off of your back? I tried it again, just holding the club with both arms, and letting it drop into a swinging arc, an almost stepping from the right foot to the left so I could get that toe up. Magic. No pressure on my spine.

What a secret I had discovered! Wow! With that little right toe move you keep the back muscles out of big trouble. Then it dawned on me that this secret was one I had observed in absolutely every good golfer, clear back to those sepia-toned photos taken some time after Reconstruction where all the professional golfers wore sweaters with ties and ALL of them ended with the stupid toe-up pose. In the whole history of the Ballet, I do not believe more people have held a single position with such precision and fervor.

The secret I am keeping now is how wrong I was for 75 years. I am trusting you not to tell anyone of this life-long stupidity, even if you use the toe-pose perfectly and save yourself a lot of pain. Say you heard it somewhere else.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

Hips in the Swinging Seventies

My next journey in Golf – at age 75 — has been a recent one. It’s all about Right and Wrong. Do it “Right” and you may get excruciating pain that lasts through the night. Do it “Wrong (ly)” and you will survive another day, but perhaps not look like a touring golf pro, in either style or distance.

But first, stand up straight and look at your hips. Now take any golf club and make a very small swing with it, hitting nothing Please. As the club moves from one side to the other, your hips want to follow. It’s inevitable with the club going right to left (unless you stiffen your body and use your arms only, as in putting). The hips are going to want to rotate AND swing from one side to the other.

Perhaps we were originally built to be belly dancers, but a lot of seventy year olds have lost the easy gyration (if not yet the rhythm). When you take a beginning golf class – which you will – then if it is with any mixed group, they will gravitate toward the ideal model. The way the Touring Pros look….The Right way to swing a club. It usually means the correct grip and the selected posture. Leaning slightly forward with your knees bent, they encourage you to dip your lead shoulder and rock the trailing shoulder back upward. Swinging the iron in a downward arc, they want you to hit the ball just before you hit the ground. Some people never quite get it “Right.”

The first time I did it “Right” I fell hopelessly in love. It had taken me a few weeks of trying, of dipping my lead shoulder (left in my case) , of banging the ground first or topping the ball or blading the ball hard forward. When that first Right ball flew off my club face everything was perfect and it flew further and higher than I had ever thought I could hit a golf ball. Later ( after using buckets of balls) I got to where I could hit downward on the ball and feel the perfection again — as long as I was on the mat at the driving range. I’ve not yet managed to go beyond hit and miss with irons off the grass, but I will.  The fond memory is always there: when you hit it Right, life is right.

Except that your quest for the perfect swing may well hit your hip flexors. There is a core muscle, called the Psoas, running down through your body to hold you erect. Some have compared this phenomenon to a tent, with your spine the main tent pole being held in place by stays in the ground around it.

The Psoas is a muscle you may stress outside its comfort zone when you hit the golf ball in the “Right” way. It is hard to describe my own experience, but if your hip flexors, mainly the Psoas muscle, get out of whack, you may have some very bad days until it recovers. If it was stressed enough, there may be days when something inside your hip structure seems to be paining without reason, and without any position of immediate relief.

There are a lot of physical therapy specialists (many under Medicare) who will help you through this. However, for less than a co-pay, I got a set of online videos that showed me how to exercise my way out of this hip flexor hell. A few minutes a day keeps the flexors aligned, or loose, or whatever they want. You can find your own comfortable method, but do assuage that Psoas.

Which brought me to discovering my Wrong way. Some golf writers are even suggesting older golfers should swing more upright, with feet closer together. You will not look like the Touring Pros who are such leaders in golf. I cannot tell you exactly how, but this slightly more upright swing might help you “shallow out” your stroke in a way that sometimes gives you more accuracy and consistency. But even if these new Wrong ways seem logical and helpful, clearly the Wrong way may not be the right way for everyone.

Copyright 2019 — David Hon

 

In Arms Way

Probably the most frequent concerns of 75-year-olds have to do with arms. There is good news and bad news about arms. However, you can certainly do something about the bad news. (I have heard it said that the next best thing to good news is getting bad news in time to do something about it.)

First the good news. Your arms don’t do all the swinging. In the best golf swings, the club is raised and then dropped, like a pendulum or a wrecking ball on a chain.  Theoretically, your arms and hands just guide the downward momentum of the swing to the place the club head impacts the ball. Imagine that you can keep your arms perfectly straight, and just “drop” the head of the club in an arc, that comes back up as “follow through” once the ball has be hit. This is how very small women on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour hit balls nearly 300 yards…further than 90% of your average man playing on weekends, if truth be told.

So the good news is that you don’t need arms like Popeye to hit a golf ball. You need a bit of rhythm and enough control of your hips and legs to assure the club swing comes down in the near vicinity of the ball, and enough body balance to keep your feet in one place without your falling over. Then your arms and hands and fingers take over, and do the last bit of guiding the club to impact.

The little bit of bad news needs explaining. When you are using irons, especially, most teachers will try to get you to hit down on the ball, contacting the ball first before the club head digs into the ground. The perfect downward iron stroke will squeeze the ball against the ground and ball will fly off the face of the club into the air, with a sweet sweet feeling as you watch the ball soar away. Golf instructors will tell you that to achieve this effect with irons, you must always “take a divot,” chopping a little toupee of grass out just after your contact with the ball.

Where the bad news comes in is when your club drives into the ground with your arms holding it. I don’t know what the statistics are, but many Golf Touring Pros — making millions of dollars sometimes – have to take Cortisone for their wrists and forearms. And then as they continue to take divots, hundreds of times per week because Touring Pros practice…a lot…all that Cortisone loses its effect, and that may be the reason a number of Golf Pros retire.  Of course the toll on their arms from hitting down on the ball and digging into the ground for a divot occurs because these Pros are practicing much of their day. Still, you want to avoid this conditions altogether.

So the first prevention for saving your 75 year-old arms is not to take many divots at all. This is possible because of fairway woods and of the advent of hybrids. Depending how you set up your first bag of clubs, you may never have to hit any “irons” (all-iron clubs) with a number smaller than 9. I just found a 9-wood in a Goodwill rack, so all I need to hit are the short distance wedges.

Other golf people will tell you to learn irons as they are classically taught. Some of us may live that long. Meanwhile, I have been interested in learning golf while avoiding injury, and so my methods of entering the golf world may hold some interest if you are over 75.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Contact with an Earthly Orb

At 75, or any age, the first thing to realize is that the sport is about contact with the ball. The proper swing which whiffs the ball negates anything else which is good. (Though in scoring, and whiffed ball does not count as a stroke, ironically.) The right position and the right balance and the best grip in the world are never the equal of pure contact with the ball. Though difficult, your contact with the golf ball is the only reason you are out there. Missing the golf ball is not even as good an exercise as going to the gym.

So the Holy Grail for the senior golfer is the “easy swing” that consistently hits the ball. Listen to this podcast philosophy from The Senior Golfer Advisor:   https://www.podbean.com/ew/pb-n5i7w-b0d487

Other sports do have contact that is difficult, and if you’ve played them, you have a big head start. For instance if you have played baseball, you stand still and watch the ball come in front of you at as fast as 100 mph. Then, if your swing’s “sweet spot” is perfect to with an inch, you may get a home run or solid hit. Miss by another inch and you strike out swinging. Tennis does have a few more inches of this “sweet spot” but then you may have to be on a dead run at the same time.

Needless to say, in golf, you get to stand still, and hit a ball which is also not moving. (This is especially important when you are age 75.) However, the true “sweet spot” to contact a golf ball is not much larger than ½ inch. ¼ inch more in any direction makes a poorer contact and a disappointing shot. More than that may be no contact, and certainly no effective shot, at all.

So you must learn several ways to be extremely precise when you start to make contact with the ball. Those are the first things you should work on when you first pick up a golf club. Before you try any more intricacies of golf, just pick up a club. Any club will do, but an iron is best if you have a choice. Now hold it loosely in both hands and reach down to the ground with it. When it touches the ground, keep your hands in the same place but move the club about a foot to the side (right if you are right handed). Then, holding the club loosely, let it swing downward by gravity alone.

If the “gravity swing” drops the club back to its starting position and brushes the ground, you have a great start with golf. Later you will hear the phrase “let the club do the work” and this simple gravity swing is a great beginning to an effective golf swing. Brushing the ground with the easily swinging club head, every time, means you have achieved “finding the ground.” Until you know what “finding the ground” feels like, nothing else you do in golf will matter.  Most of what I will blog here is my own humble opinion (IMHO), but I believe “finding the ground” is a physical fact, a law of the golfer’s universe that no golfer can deny. Most of the rest of what you will learn in golf has to do with finding the ground (and the ball on it) consistently and with some power.

I hope you can follow the rest of these blogs with a grain of salt. They are not a set of instructions (which abound online and in reality) but a result of my explorations –good and bad — as a 75 year old beginner. I am humbled by the vast history and expertise of golf, but I am more humbled by the restrictions of age and even the probability that Death will stop the strides I am making toward being a golfer. Your brothers and sisters and children who play golf will clearly share their excellent knowledge. But here – to our community of 75 year olds — I will try to offer some easier alternatives and short cuts I have tried, though some may seem bizarre, and others downright sacrilege.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Beware the Candy Store

When you are learning golf at age 75 there is no end of beginnings. The people at the golf pro shop will say you must first have a good set of clubs. Your local golf instructor says you need instruction, and he’ll provide the clubs. The fancy golf resort in Hawaii will assume you want a world class course and a five star hotel room. Some golfing friends will say you must join the country club. Be sure of this. You’ll get a lot of help. The vast business of golf will welcome you to its candy store, and they’ll help you reach for your credit card with smiles all around….

So…Let me put it in a different light: Simple Beginnings. Golf can be fun and cheap or golf can be frustrating and expensive. If you spend a lot of money up front for full sets of clubs or four one-hour private lessons or a country club membership, you will want some kind of result for the money. You may not progress quickly at all, and if you have spent a bunch of money that will be demanding on your performance.  I’ll offer another approach.

You do not need pressures on yourself when you are learning golf at age 75. Do this. Go to a miniature golf course during the day when there are no kids or families around. A few friends might make it more fun. Just putt the ball through a monster’s mouth and bounce it around corners and you will get a feel for putting. It’s the simplest shot to start with in golf. Mostly you will do it right, with two hands on the putter and striking the ball just hard enough to put it in the hole, and not hard enough to hurt anyone.

One of the most interesting golf stores is not a golf store at all. It is the local Goodwill. The local Goodwill will have a wonderful selection of used golf clubs in wonderful condition. My suggestion is that you start by getting only a putter, and a nine iron, and a 3 wood. Mostly the size will be for the average golfer, and if you are short you may want to get junior or ladies sizes.  Except for an occasional pink paint job, the clubs have no idea what sex you are.

You can probably buy these three beginning clubs for $10…$15 max. Later you will spend more, but only when you know more of what you are doing. These three clubs will let you begin to experience the 3 important parts of a golf game. With a 3-wood  you can learn driving for your Long Game, both from the tee and on the fairway. With that 9-iron you can learn to hit any iron, especially in the Short game (when you are approaching the green). And of course the putter will be the last club you use, on the green, to get the ball in the hole with your Putting game.

In a short time you will discover areas where you can physically practice, and inexpensive ways to begin playing. The putting green at any public golf course (,  and in some golf stores,)  is usually free for unlimited practice. No one will ask you what you are doing. You are improving your golf, like any other golfer, high school to touring pro. To beginning experiencing Long Game and Short Game shots, you can find little plastic  “practice” golf balls with holes in them to practice contacting the ball with your 9 iron and your 3 wood, and not breaking any windows. Probably these can be found at the Goodwill as well, but enough to begin hitting will only cost a few dollars at any store with a Sports section. A large backyard or, better, a patch of grass in a neighborhood park will do fine for you your first efforts at contacting a plastic practice ball. It’s not the exact feel of contacting a real ball, off course, but it will begin to develop your eye and your basic stance and swing.

 Later you may want to hit a “bucket” of real balls, to improve your Long Game, and go around a short 9 hole “pitch and putt” course to begin actually playing with your few clubs. You may learn some basics in an inexpensive group lessons and that is a good idea, but basically you cannot buy the ability to hit that little ball. You must learn to make contact, and hit it where you want it to go. This means you first invest a little time.

Begin your golf learning in this way, and when you finally walk into the golf candy store, you’ll know much more of what you want, and what you need.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

The Dividends of Grandeur

At age 75, you have probably begun to worry about how you are investing your time. You may not be tracking the investment of time you have left on a spread sheet, but you must have a sense of what is lovely in life, and how you can live out what’s left in the middle of that good life. Friends and family are of course right up there, and if you are very involved with both you are fortunate indeed. There does occur more than a little loneliness in these years, however, and golf can come to the rescue. Aside from the fact that you may develop some golfing friend, golf itself can provide at least two glorious dividends for the time, and some little bit of money, that you put into it. These dividends are yours alone.

In the Candy Store post, I talked about how you can spend money on golf if you really want to, but your beginning – and probably your most significant – steps will be built on Attitude and Desire. I would venture to wager that a good golfer could turn in a decent score using only the 3 wood, 9 iron, and the putter that I suggested would cost $10-15 in a Goodwill store. What money could not buy for that golfer, or anyone else, was Attitude and Desire, and one other investment…Practice Time.

If you are retired, your golden payoff is that you have almost unlimited Practice Time. You have as much Practice Time as touring professionals, and maybe a little more. You will also have some great Senior – and even half price Super Senior discounts in many places, simply because you can occupy a course or a driving range during the working week when few other people are using it. Your low cost clubs and your discounts and your coveted Practice Time can all point you toward Golf’s two great dividends.

  Harbour Pointe Golf Course (near Seattle)

Dividend #1 – The Gardens of Royalty. Mark Twain, or someone else looking for a laugh, talked of Golf as a “Good walk spoiled.” But there are good walks, and there are GOOD WALKS. Of course the grounds of Versailles or the Czars’ Summer Palace may come to mind. However, anyone walking around a rich country estate (anywhere, US, England, or really anywhere) will find the foliage and the grounds immaculately well kept. The landscaping will take advantage of the broad vistas and the trimmed forests. You will be walking through a natural dreamland that is the best that Nature can present in any area. In a very similar way, golf courses might be considered the jewels in each community. All you have to do to be royalty in the midst of this splendor is to hit a golf ball along. For sure, it becomes your shared country estate.

Dividend #2 – The Grandeur Within. It is one thing to hit a little ball out into the wide green fairways between the trees and ponds and sand – and it is quite another thing to hit it well. At age 75 you have accomplished a few things, but they are fading fast. You may not remember the few remaining people at your high school reunion. You take long flights of stairs with more effort than a few years ago. You have trouble lifting bags into the overhead bin…often people kindly offer to help. All of the things you controlled with your head and your strength…are fading fast.

With golf you are given a rebirth of a human privilege, of improving yourself by yourself. Age seems to take that personal thrill away, but with golf you have new challenges, and time and practice can give you new abilities, new skills, every month. You can get better and for many years, you can get better fast. You have exciting new revelations and new successes as you invest your time, and just a little money, in golf. The rewards are not outside you. They are inside you…and at age 75 they are priceless.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Buy a New Sport, Old Sport!

Learning a new sport at age 75, or any age, is a bit like buying a car. The first decision, of course, is whether you actually need a car. There are buses and now Ubers to give you a range beyond your legs. In a like manner, you may decide in an instant that you don’t need any sport for your old age. And if you did choose a sport to become involved in, you may know instantly that it would not be golf. That is the way I was for most of my life. Instantly, totally, and fervently adverse to golf. I’m glad I avoided it until now, because golf is definitely more suited to old age. (Mark this as “B.O.” – Blogger’s Opinion.)

However, having enjoyed playing sports all my life, and finding myself in old age year 75, I predicted I might soon need a new sport. Back to buying the car. Perhaps the ideal way to buy a car would be to borrow – or more likely rent – one that you are interested in and drive it for a week or so. With golf, I think that is as simple as finding a place to hit a few balls. The driving range is such a place and many, many golf courses have public driving ranges associated with them. Say the cost of a bucket of 30 balls costs you $5. They will usually loan you any kind of club you want to smack those balls. If you are not still an athlete you will miss them all. But probably you will connect with a few of them, even the first time out.

Now if you don’t get some satisfaction in hitting a few of the balls squarely (and you will probably miss or miss-hit a LOT of them this first go), then golf may not be interesting. However, if you crack one, just once, and it travels high and away from you over the green in front of you, arcing against the sky, you may like the feeling. This contact is the prime feeling in golf, and beyond all the many other reasons for “buying” into this new sport. It’s a brand-new thrill! And  those of us age 75 do often wonder if there are many truly new thrills left.

I’ve already mentioned another experience to guide you to golf: the miniature golf course. These exist of course in amusement parks but also in the back lots of gas stations. Some have loop-the-loops and others have swinging bridges to putt across, but it is all putting. It is all putting the little ball the last few feet until it drops into a hole. Putting is the next prime feeling in golf, tapping the ball into the hole. If you never are able to drop the ball in the hole when you try, you may not be interested in golf. But when a long one drops in, even at a dinky miniature golf course on the side of gas station at some state highway, you feel like you’ve done something. You feel like a real golfer.

If you enjoy smacking a ball from the ground to the skies, or watching for seconds as  your long crazy putt meanders into the hole, (or both),  those are the best reasons for you to consider golf as your next sport. Playing with family or friends is a distant second. Playing for business or community contacts is a very remote third reason.  But smacking and putting are pure play, kids play. Fun play.

Good or bad, everyone has their reasons. Whatever your reason, in some of the next posts I’ll relate some steps toward actually playing the game at age 75. Some ways are cheap, some pragmatic, and of course some elegant and expensive. Golf, especially in America, has many sides and reasons catering to the 40 million people who say they are golfers. At 75, you are in the prime situation to experience golf in any way that suits you.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Fear in the Time of Challenge

 As the Yaki Indian wise man Don Carlos said, the decline of old age is the toughest challenge of all.  I don’t have to tell you that family members are bed-ridden, lifelong friends die off while you still owe them dinner at your place, and events of your early life are a distant muddle but for a few photos. You surely have less bounce in your step – but you still have a step. The challenge of old age is to put any life back in Life, while you are still walking.

So the time is near for you to begin actually playing golf. This could be your way, and perhaps your only way, of fighting back the early withering of your soul. And there are signs already that you may succeed. Hopefully (as I suggested) you have picked up a 3-wood and a 9-iron and a putter – at your local Goodwill store for a total of $15. Hopefully you’ve found an empty field for hitting the 3 and the 9 and a carpet for your putter to get the feel of these clubs. And hopefully you have then with the 3-wood and the 9-iron knocked some balls on a low cost driving range, and the putter on the totally free greens at most public golf  courses.

Life is short and you must now begin golf in earnest. Do not wait for golf to come to you. There are usually pitch-and-putt courses in most towns, and some have holes up to 200 yards. Often their fees for seniors (and super seniors over 75) are extremely reasonable. In more remote locations, you’ll  just have to start on the long course with a nine-hole rate in the off-peak hours midday. However, the longer pitch-and-putt courses (sometimes called “Executive 9s”) are probably your best way to start experiencing real golf.

Do that even before you have tried to master any stroke or any club. Do that if you have a few weeks wait to take inexpensive group lessons. Time may not be on your side. Here is my cantankerous and surely controversial opinion: Even though you may be inept and the experience somewhat frustrating, you need to understand golf in the context of playing golf. Only after you have tried to play will you know what lessons you need the most, what equipment you need the most, and what kind of practice you need to start…now.

We’ll talk about those things in short order. but do not be afraid either of embarrassment or hurting yourself or wasting money or worse, embarking on something so huge you can never complete it…. Many others are as embarrassed as you, you adjust yourself immediately to anything that hurts, you can begin cheaply, and as for something so huge…

To get our attention at our age, it practically has to be huge. I had the good fortune to be at the 2012 Harvard Commencement speech by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the President of Liberia and a Nobel Prize winner as the first female leader of an African nation. She told the soon-to-be-comfortable Harvard grads that they would aspire to goals, but she warned that if they were predictable and safe goals, these would drain their life of passion. She told the soon-to-be-comfortable Harvard grads that their lives would mean little if their goals, right now, were not “absolutely terrifying”, almost impossible to imagine reaching.

Maybe she was not talking to you, or certainly not talking about golf.  Or maybe she was….Without demeaning her message or the potentials of Youth, I think that if you are just starting out on golf then probably it is scary. Scary is probably how a round of golf looks to you. HUGE. Impossible. So this should be of comfort, and be your great luck, in the Time of Challenge. You should welcome this new thing you are afraid of…because by now you are more ready than you know.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Golf in the Elements

If you are 75, you have seen a rainy day or two. And wherever you live, there are usually cold days in some of the year, and you mostly don’t let them get in your way. With snug cars and centrally heated roofs over our heads, it is easy to forget that once upon a time we were tough. Our kids wouldn’t dream of swimming in cold water, but we frolicked in it. Our smartphones know the weather, and so we come to know it hour by hour. It’s a sure sign of sloth, when we can’t look out the window or step outside to find out how the weather really is, because our smartphones will tell us in the comfort of our beds.

No one will question your right to restrict your golfing to sunny days only. It does put you in a category, and it does limit your options. But with so many years of travail behind you, you have the total right to demand that the sun shine on every joy you find, and every day you find it. There are plenty of sunny days for golf, and plenty of golfers of all ages populate weekends on the courses (leaving weekdays mostly to the retired).

But remember this: once we were tough. Once we played our sports in the rain – tennis, with soggy balls and wooden racquets that were warping. Once we played outside all day long because as kids, the outside was ours. The outside was freedom. So even before you venture out to a full length course, you will probably have to decide if you are a fair-weather golfer, or a tough one.

No one is suggesting you go out golfing in torrential rains, or in cold that freezes your eyes and earlobes. However, in golf there are a few advantages to being tough. If you go out on a misty day, you will probably have the whole course to yourself — this is good for beginners not being rushed by impatient golfers behind. If you go out on a cold day, such as most climates experience in the fall, or early spring, you can manage well in 50 degree weather while other golfers are waiting at home for summer. Some northerners even hit colored golf balls into the snow. (They find them, like so many Easter eggs lying about, in the spring).

So your choice is to be a fair-weather golfer, or a tough one. Shorts and sporty shirts and baseball caps are all a fair-weather golfer needs. But the tough ones are out in the grey mist and the cold autumn and late winter days. They need waterproof golf shoes (from England, on Amazon at $29.95) and a rain shirt that keeps you dry and warm while swinging away ($18 on sale online) and ordinary golf gloves, but for both hands.

If you are among the tough ones, you will discover as I did, that you have as many as four more months golfing, with few people on the course. Occasionally there are winter rates, and golf has its “winter rules” which allow you to take a ball from the mud and drop it on about any spot of grass you want. However, to be truthful…when I started golf in December, I had to be tough because I was impatient to get out there and hit the ball.

There is one more advantage to being a tough golfer. When the sun and warmth finally breaks through, all the fair weather golfers are just getting their strokes back. You will be jumping with joy in the pulsating air, and ready to enjoy not being quite so tough. However, you also know you may continue your golfing days a couple more months after the skies turn grey again. Think of it…It is like negotiating four more months of Life every year. Perhaps it is a deal you have with your God…but what a deal!


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Golfing – A Feminine Frontier

At age 76, there are two things I will probably never be in this lifetime. One is being age 75 ever again, and the other is being a woman. 

I’ve been communicating here about learning golf as a 75 year old, and I have meant to include all of us in that. First, it is good exercise with little chance of falling. It does get you out of the house and doing something that is constantly challenging, and fun. You can play golf with others, or all by yourself. There are lots of ways you can begin inexpensively and then spend more if you get more involved. What you do have, if you are retired at age 75, is the time to explore golf more…whether you have played a bit before or are taking up golf for the first time.

Those are the same for 75 year old men or women. Another thing, almost the same, is how sports you might have played when you were much younger give you a start on the new skills of golf now. Girls playing basketball know where the ball has to go, just as boys know how hard it is to hit a baseball. My wife Brenda had played tennis and field hockey, and most of her golf shots turned out to be straighter than mine.

Of the few things I do know about women, these would definitely recommend a 75 year old taking up golf (as opposed to – say – rugby). First, you are likely to live much longer than men.  Statistics give you four or five more years, as I remember.  You might as well spend that time enjoying golf.

Secondly, a lot fewer women than men say they have ever played golf, but that is a supreme advantage.   Roughly, I remember that about 23% of all women say they have played golf, as opposed to over 60% of men. (Please don’t break my fingers if these are not pinpoint exact. You get the idea and the idea is factual.) If you compare this to the possible gene pool, that means you as a woman will have TWICE the odds of becoming a respectable golfer as any man!

Some other advantages women have over men in playing golf are a little more speculative, but observation will  bear them out.  Good women golfers can often hit a ball 275 yards, nearly as far as a man. Golf observers say it is because these good women golfers have a very smooth and complete swing with their whole body which takes a ball much further than the arm strength of a man alone. The short game doesn’t rely on strength at all. That is why year after year the professional men and women golfers have very similar averages in their tournament play.

However, my own speculation is that women are mostly built better for golf. Their generally lower center of gravity gives women a lot greater balance and stability on their own two feet than men could ever have. This means that their golf swings can be more consistent, and so they can eventually depend on their shots not only being straighter, but that all power of their swing will more consistently strike the ball in the right place.

As a man, I welcome 75 year old women to the world of golf, and I promise not to be too envious of the advantages you bring.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

The Wellness Club

As you may have noted, all 75 year olds are not built for golf. Some of us, unfortunately, already have to have assistance with activities of daily living. You may have noted at the bottom of this web site that we suggest you mention to your doctor that you want to try golf. They may know something that we do not — and you do not — and they will advise you on that.

However, there are doctors of all opinions. At one time cardiologists thought heart attack victims should spend the rest of their lives in bed. With more research, and some years later, a few modern doctors now have some similar victims running marathons. Some doctors say to go easy on your arthritis and others say exercise those joints or they will atrophy. Golf club manufacturers have arthritic grips so older golfers can still grip the clubs firmly. Special golf gloves make it easier for arthritic fingers to grip clubs as well.

So there are limitations, and there are solutions, but mostly there are attitudes. You may be surprised to know that you do not always have to do as the doctor advises. Doctors ice many “tennis elbows” and tell the tennis players to wait out the healing of ligaments for weeks. However, in one such tennis situation I got a prized appointment to the local professional football team’s chiropractor.  (These football players beat on each other with their arms for a living. )  He said if I could take a few painful manipulations, I could possibly be back playing in a day or so (much as the professional football players are told, I am sure). Well, these bizarre manipulations hurt a lot, but they worked. So much for resting our lives away….

In other cases, back surgeons may advise surgery for backs, but they get 10s of thousands of dollars per procedure, and they may have kids to put through college…Life is crass that way. Always remember: You are the medical consumer and if a chiropractor or an Asian acupuncturist works for you, you are still in charge.  And then, even if you are not hurting, I would say that you might want first to do a self-assessment. Here is a little “wellness exam” to see if you are fit enough to start golf:

    1. Can you tie your own shoes? Tying shoes also has a lot of manipulations involved, and some people over 70 wear nothing but loafers and bedroom slippers, unless they have some help dressing for occasions.
    2. Can you walk one straight mile without stopping? If you can, you can probably play golf, since you will have to do some walking however you approach it. Of course, walking the full course (perhaps with a roller) gives excellent exercise to any age.
    3. Can you pick up a piece of paper from the floor? This requires some balance and agility and of course you will often have to set tees and pick up golf balls.
    4. Can you clasp both hands over your head? Often you are not required to work over head, and shoulders do deteriorate. (Notice that we are NOT asking you to repeat three words we gave you earlier. You can remember score on your fingers….)
    5. Can you pick up a 20 pound suitcase by its handle? A minimum of arm and body strength will be necessary for golf.
    6. Can you climb two flights of stairs without using the railing? Have a railing at hand if you try this, because balancing on one leg as you step to the next step is possibly a difficult set of moves.

I am not saying these are the only qualifications to play golf at our age, but enthusiastic as you may be, a firm self-assessment such as these questions offer will let you move forward with more confidence. If these are easy tests to pass for the Wellness Club, then let’s get going with golf clubs!


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

To Play, or to “Groove”

By age 75, you deserve to choose the way you like to play. Younger age groups follow a pack, They play tennis and golf and even bowl in leagues. There are rules for scoring and at those younger ages, scores mean a lot – scores are what you are worth. Average scores are what you are worth on the average. That is why the idea of “personal best” is so important in running and archery and golf when you are young, because if nothing else you are competing against yourself. People even obsess over the number of steps they take each day, recorded on their smartphones.

However, humanity is thankfully more complex than to merely have sports as a surrogate for bloody wars. Long before they are age 75, many many people in lots and lots of sports get their greatest enjoyment from simply “grooving” their strokes or other skills. Fathers and sons don’t have to play baseball together: they spend long hours after dinner just playing “catch” in the back yard. Same with kids tossing the football to each other – one spinning a perfect spiral and the other “running out” for a long over the shoulder catch. Soccer players “juggle” the ball, keeping it in the air for many minutes bouncing it off head and knees and feet in the dance of sport. Basketball players shoot alone for hours, pretending to dodge and cross over dribble and fall away for a jump shot. Many long afternoons of satisfaction pass just “grooving those skills” over and over.

Many tennis players just “hit” for hours, moving to the ball and stroking deep topspin shots, over and over. This not simply practice, this is play, this is thrilling to the perfect “groove” to your performance. Not to say this has no bearing on sports performance…but it is a life apart…and a sweet spot free of the intensity of scoring and the shame of losing.

Some people are happiest if they are keeping score, of course. You will learn to keep score in golf soon enough, and if you go around on short nines or long 18s you will be given a score care to remember how well or poorly you did on each hole. It is important to keep score at times, to know how well you are doing against a standard – par. Scoring in golf is much less one-uping the person beside you and much more in assessing your own status in relation to an abstract standard.

At age 75 you can score for yourself on whatever length course you choose, or score against those you are with. Or you can concentrate on “grooving” your strokes, because of the lovely feeling of hitting a “good ball” with excellent contact and straightness and loft, dropping in right into the fairway or right onto the green. It is not trivial or unrelated that well-grooved strokes, flying to the center of the distant green or dropping just beside the flag on the green, often result in better scoring. However, by the age of 75 that score may not matter so much as the “groove” – feel of a great shot.

I have people now who I golf with who just count pars, or who just try to hit every shot at its best, but do not torment over a given score on a given hole. We go out on these manicured playfields and do our best, every shot, to capture the “groove” the shot that feels right and flies right. In our group of elders, every one watches the other’s shot – not in the least because errant balls get lost – but also to cheer on each others’ best shots. We all know what a good shot looks like. And we still, at our advanced age, want to win…but now it is more to achieve the best possible in ourselves and others who are with us. I think that we have learned with age what play should be about.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Benjamin Button Goes to First Grade

First Grade is a long time back when you are 75 years old. (My first grade was at Woodlake School in Minneapolis, and I’ll bet you can remember yours. Did you have inkwell holes in your old school desks? ) At any rate, it was for sure a time you did not know what to expect, or how you should relate to others, or even what basics you would be learning.

Your first golf lessons may be like the First Grade. You may be taking just one lesson at a time, or a series. If you take group lessons, they are usually in a series and MUCH less expensive. I personally favor the cheapest group lessons, as the instructor is forced to relate the basics in a way the whole group can understand. Also, even though you may be the oldest, you can usually find someone in the group who is worse than you are, and this helps give you immensely more confidence. Remember though, gloating is really unattractive in older folks.

Undoubtedly the instructor(s) will start out teaching you the full swing. Their objective is to have you standing in a balanced position and swinging the club in a consistent manner. When you can stand balanced on two feet and make a big swing of the club in a manner that merely brushes the ground in front of you, the thinking is that you will hit the ball consistently as well.

Until I actually started to play golf, it seemed like hitting the ball as straight and as far as you can with every club was going to be the key to playing golf.  But is that the key to anything but getting a buzz out of a long smack? What if, at the end of all your mighty swings, you can’t neatly deposit it into one little hole?

If I had paid for individual lessons and knew enough to structure my own learning, I would have started it all out with a putting lesson. You can then practice putting at free putting greens at municipal courses, or even those inside most golf stores where you can try out every putter they have. No one will ever bother you at any of these places…stay all day. Learn to “lag” the ball from 30 feet away and end up so close to the hole you can tap it in. You can even practice putting on your carpet at home, if you can clear away about 10 feet of clutter. As my golfer son-in-law says “Drive for Show, but Putt for Dough.”

The Short Game is the most difficult to master but probably easier for the 70 year old than long driving and long fairway and approach shots. There are lots of instructors who secretly agree, but the promo pictures are always of pro golfers in full swing, and most lessons seek first to satisfy that golfing urge, it seems. However, the most fantastically talented of pro swingers often — incredibly often — wilt when they have to get the little ball into the little hole a few feet away.

So take it from me, starting with the whole Short Game would make the most sense. First you concentrate on putting the ball into the hole from various distances and with various ‘breaks” in the surface of the putting green. That could take weeks (or months). Then you work backward to chipping and then pitching with quarter swings, again looking to put it straight into the hole. Then you learn half swings until you can land it close to the hole most of the time from 50 feet away.

Most experienced golfers will tell you this Short Game is the study of a lifetime.  if you learn things in this reverse “Benjamin Button” order, then by the time you get to a full swing, you are already a golfer.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Golf Elbow and Your Bag O’ Tricks

If you arrive at 75 and still want to strive at being alive through sport – then you probably have a bag of physical tricks to get your body through the next mile, or the next match, or the next day. A friend of mine just introduced me to lavender oil on the bottom of the feet to promote sound sleep. He handed me some. I tried it. I slept nicely. I’m not selling it, but I like you because you read this blog, and so I pass the trick on to you. But, of course, not all tricks work for all people.

When someone hands you a new trick, it is usually not medically dangerous. Common sense can make you wary enough. Snake venom may cure something or other, but I am not about to try it. Surprisingly enough, most doctors don’t know all the tricks, and are usually curious to learn from you. And of course, you can mention something you are thinking of doing and a doctor will dissuade you if he or she has knowledge.

When it comes to muscles and bones, you can usually try a bit of the latest trick and see if you feel better. Ibuprofin, for example, is often prescribed for inflammation pain but eats at my stomach. Once again, common sense. But healing, healing is another matter. Take an example from tennis. Just for your information, the number of tennis players over 30 who experience tennis elbow is massive. The number over age 60 is epidemic. At age 75, most tennis players are ready for the glue factory – not in small part because of their tennis elbow. Once when I was sailing, I let a taut line jerk my arm at an awkward angle, and immediately I had tennis elbow that ran up to the shoulder.

I wanted to play tennis, and yet could barely lift my arm to play. I wandered the internet and found this guy who has tenniselbowclassroom.com The non-pretentious narrator shows you the basic anatomy, and then just sits on camera and shows you on his arm how to rid yourself of most tennis elbow problems. No pain, just extremely effective manipulation on yourself. It worked, and I was playing at 90% within a week. Maybe it was just luck, but what can I say?

No tennis elbow problem has laid me low me since I subscribed to that site. There I collected a marvelous bag of tricks for tennis, but the reason I mention it here was that the underside of your forearm is the area which is prone to Golf Elbow.

Almost on schedule, in my first few months’ trying to swing a golf club I developed Golf Elbow in my left arm. I remembered I had the subscription to tenniselbowclassroom  and immediately tried the Golf Elbow videos. There is one bump of ligament and bone that is the central point of most Golf Elbow. After about a week’s work with the therapy video, I have not experienced any Golf Elbow since.

At the moment, my bag of tricks badly needs a new trick for back pain caused by the gyrations they say are needed to hit the ball further or straighter or higher or whatever is your ego’s main need. To continue golf – and thus this blog — it is beginning to look like this 76-year-old may need to learn a new stroke entirely, one that avoids pressure on the lower back. That’s OK, because I just started golf and I am malleable as butter if I can slip past a crippling slipped disc . Of course I will keep you posted, but read the medical disclaimer at the bottom of this blog page. (Again: Not all tricks work for all people.)


Copyright 2019 — David Hon