The Merry Band of Bionic Golfers

If you are anywhere near age 75 you probably remember watching the “Six Million Dollar Man”, a series on black and white television. This “Bionic Man” had been a test pilot in a bad airplane crash, and a team of scientists rebuilt him. His powers were augmented to be far better than before: to run faster, lift more, jump higher and last longer than ordinary humans.

There was no warrantee, of course. This Bionic Man was only a test case. Nevertheless, on TV he became useful in foiling bad guys and Russian spies during a few seasons of TV shows. Then (really!) along came the Bionic Women who could run as fast, lift as much, jump as high and – well – last longer than the Bionic Man… What we don’t remember so well was that this Bionic Man and Woman were also engineered for resiliency against hard landings and various pummelings by Nature and humans alike.

In this built-on resiliency, the Bionic Man was also like medieval knights in armor who jousted in tournaments and thrashed at each other with broadswords on the ancient battlefields. Which brings us at last to you. At 75, you may need several aids for resiliency in your golf game. When you saddle up for golf, you are likely to sling on a protective back brace against the stress and violence of swinging a driver for maximum distance. But that may just be a start.

Alas, the ball does not seem to fly as far for you as it does with younger players. Your challenges are different, but nonetheless real. You need the engineers to rebuild you for performance like the Bionic Man, and to protect you from injury like the medieval knights. Much of what you will need is in a well-stocked drug store, but today you can find much more online. (By the way, the price is way below six million, and you don’t need a horse.)

Here are a few items for your bionic build up at 75 years old, starting from the arms. Some kibitzers will tell you not to bend your wrist when you swing, but stop action on any professional and you’ll see that is pure malarkey. When you contact the ball your wrists become the focal point of your whole body. Wrists are one of the main injuries suffered by professional golfers. Wrist brace devices can be just an adhesive wrapping, or become more rigid – and expensive – with splints build into the front and back. What you will not find is a side brace, or even a pocket for it.

  Your Bionic Knight!

My wrist suffered from what is called Ulnar Deviation injury, which created a painful sprain when I missed the ball. If I hit the ball, it felt fine. Now admittedly the pain itself is a superb training aid, but I created just the right resistance by cutting a piece from a cowhide leather belt, and slipping it under the side of a golf brace in addition to the regular (back of the hand) splint. My arthritis doctor said she loves it when patients create ways to alleviate their own pain…

Going one direction from your wrist, you (or a good friend) must lace thumb braces on you like a Victorian corset. Back up the arm in the other direction, you can support “golf elbows” with stretch bands, or foam sleeves, or supports which wrap separately around your forearm and lower bicep. Usually these elbow braces support your lead arm (left if you are right handed). Also, there are massage therapies for Golf Elbow, as I note in another post (“In Arms Way.”)

It strikes me now that this subject of creating the Bionic Self is broader than just one post, because we still have back and hips and knees and ankles. So I guess we will have to continue with at least one more post. Believe it or not, there is good news here. Younger athletes use supports for various occasional injuries but used together these supports can make an entire suit of armor for we 75-year-olds men and women. Just find “The Merry Band of Bionic Golfers – Part 2”, for a variety of back and hip braces, and then finally knees, and ankles. We’ll even investigate battery-run electronic aids to make you truly bionic in your own home.

Copyright 2020 – David Hon

The Merry Band of Bionic Golfers – Part 2

By now, you must be enchanted by this image of endearing, quixotic 75-year-old golfers – bionic knights and knightesses marching forth on golf courses during everyone else’s work day. If you are not yet thus enchanted, see “The Merry Band of Bionic Golfers”. In that previous post, I talked about enhancements and protections, but mostly about strap-on protections for your back and wrists and elbows.

Thrashing about the golf course can be dangerous work when you are 75, clear down to your hips and knees and ankles. In general, the faster you swing your golf club the further the ball will go. However, the bad news is that the faster you swing the wilder you get. If you clobber your own foot with your fast swing, that can be painful indeed, but it is a great training aid. (If it hurts, we humans try to learn another way.) Golf injuries to your back are rarely original at our age: you’ve probably had a weakened back before at some time. Some back braces are just token – others have fiberboard or even inflatable support. And you may have to adjust your swing – see the post: “Saved By Science.”

Injuries to your knees may come from swinging in the wrong posture, or just walking up too many hills. When my knees really started to hurt was when I began to run the short 9 course, described in “Crucible with a 6 Iron.” I immediately Googled knee braces, and found a cornucopia of knee supports. Some were mere wrappings, and others had steel reinforcements. Some knee braces were even hinged, and were very heavy. Reminds one of how their medieval armor allowed dismounted Knights to creak around like future robots and clang on other dismounted knights with broadswords and swing ball-and-chains.

  Light and Industrial Grade Knees

Back to our future, my arthritis doctor, perhaps amused with these new ways old people destroy themselves, gave me some good advice on knee braces. “Start with the least supportive ones, and try to not to use braces that give your knees too much support.” Easy for her to say…the pain is mine. “If you become too dependent on the sturdier braces, you knees will not build up the body’s own support, in muscles and ligaments.” Turns out she didn’t have kids to send to college with knee replacement profits. But it also turns out that in my case – so far – she was right.

Getting into the VERY Bionic, there are actual electronic wave belts and muscle stimulators that can do something to absolve muscle pain. With double A battery power there may be little they can do to hurt you, and stimulation of muscles feels like something is going on there. If you can buy them at the drug store, they are probably harmless enough. Some people even report that it takes away pain. (Quick note: These devices are somewhat medical. They are NOT the vibrators in online pleasure catalogs you may stumble onto by mistake…)

Lastly, there are true Bionic enhancements for the 75-year-old golfer that really make sense and really work wonders. Here is a short list:

  • Arthritic gloves make it easier to grip the club, and being thicker can keep your hands a bit warmer as well.
  • – Large diameter golf grips can also make gripping and swinging your clubs easier. Try them first on the clubs you use most. Or for a few dollars, just build up the diameter of the club with an overwrap. The tackiness of those overwraps also helps you swing with a relaxed grip that is still a firm one.
  • Solidly-built golf shoes, with studs or cleats. can help older people with their balance issues. Balance is necessary for a consistently good swing. Youngsters can get away with wearing sneakers, but not us. (Waterproof shoes are more comfortable in the morning dew, or in late and early season golf in the slop.
  • – Bryson DeChambeau, a recent tour winner, has friendly manufacturers build all of his clubs the same length. Some experts say that with a longer clubs the same length, your body isn’t constantly modifying posture as you try to hit the ball. If you want to try same-length clubs, my much cheaper alternative is an adjustable-head club in “Demons and Shortcuts.”

However you chose to modify yourself and your golf, we 75-year-old Bionics will recognize each other’s armor. Don’t stand too close, but salute each other with respect for Golf’s life-long quest.

Copyright 2020 – 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 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