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 reasonable 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

 

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