Taking on the Big Show

When you are starting anything in your seventies, there are so many voices of intimidation. Medical people say your bones are brittle, so don’t risk falling. Younger people all seem stronger, and have more energy and flexibility, and move so much faster. In golf specifically, good golfers hitting 300 yard drives all day can be very intimidating.  If you have been working on your golf strokes, and perhaps playing on short nine-hole courses quite happily, you may not want to subject yourself to an 18 hole course. It is the intimidating Big Show. Beginning golf in your seventies, you may think the Big Show – the four to five miles of an 18 hole course – is beyond you.

Don’t sell yourself short…

Remember that if you pay your money and like to hit the ball toward the hole, you deserve to be on the golf course as much as anyone. Much more than any collection of skills, your attention to the flow of the game and your courtesy toward other players will make you accepted by other golfers. Maybe you never hit a ball more than 70 or 80 yards. You can still play on the same course with “scratch” golfers – who always score in the low 70s. If you work at making good contact on the ball, with cheap but effective methods I’ll describe in further posts, you can begin to feel more comfortable on the large course. And surprisingly, if you work very hard at controlling your time, you can be acceptable by golfers on almost any course.

Try to think of your every move on the course as something that either adds to, or subtracts from, the time the people in the group behind you must wait. You may be fortunate enough to have a tee time with no group directly behind you or ahead of you. However, let us assume the schedule is tight (- some courses recommend only 13-15 minutes per hole). So here are some positive habits you can build, even with your first time on the 18-hole Big Show. The essence, for any player on the course, is to keep the game moving. If players behind you continually see a novice or a senior out on the fairway, fretting about which club to use, or otherwise dawdling about instead of moving to their next shot, your presence will not be popular. Here are some ways NOT to be that fairway obstacle:

  1. Always be ready with your next club. As you are going to your next shot, decide what club you will use so you can pull it from the bag immediately and decisively to be ready for your turn to hit.
  2. When it is your turn, take just enough time to set up quickly, and then calmly concentrate on your shot.
  3. New Golf rules say you only have 3 minutes to look for a ball. Respect that.
  4. Try to adjust your game to whomever you are partnering with. If you hit only 70-80 yards at the longest, offer to hit first so you are ready to start most quickly toward your shorter ball. This is also useful  when you know you won’t hit is as far as the players on the fairway are (and so represent no danger to them).
  5. Continuously move your bag or cart along with you whenever you have hit, so you don’t have to double back for your next club. If you are near the green, take both a short club and your putter.
  6. Before you putt, try to leave your bag (or cart) at the furthest point toward the next tee. Then you will not have to double back for your clubs.

As awkward as I am learning golf in my seventies, these are a few kinds of golf etiquette which are the most important things I have learned about playing with other golfers. I have had times when I was inadvertently paired with experienced players who made incredible shots. Gosh! 200 yard approach shots they dropped right on the green.

Talk about intimidating. And yet I watched as they practiced everything I mentioned above. They do these so naturally it is easy for you to follow and learn. I may just have been lucky, but every time I was miss-paired in this way, they respected the fact this old man was diligent with his game and with their time and they complimented me on me on good shots. From my good fortune, I hope that you will try the Big Show sooner than later. You may even find some Big Hearts out there!


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

 

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:

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

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

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

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 tennis elbow classroom. 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 tennis elbow classroom  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

Save Buckets of Money with a Practice Space

Back in the days of the Red Dog Saloon, everyone knew the length of his or her pace and from that could walk off distances. Chances are, if you are 75, you’ve learned pacing at one time or other in your youth, or should have. One pace is two steps, a left and a right. When you are pacing you start on your left foot count every time your right foot comes down. (We used to slap our right leg and count the next number on the way to the destination). Then, when you get to your objective – the golf hole or the edge of the park, you take the count of your paces. Then you multiply it by the length of one pace. The average man has a pace – a left and right step – of about 5 feet.

Don’t spend a fortune in $8 and $12 buckets of balls to develop your shorter shots. Instead, you should find your own practice area for your Short Game and pace off distances within it to practice your shorter “pitches.” This small area of grass may be the outfield of a baseball diamond, unused during the week. It may be on the back grounds of large office complex. Or it may be in a remote corner of a city park. Remember these are unused areas in much of the workweek, untouched and yours to use. One great golfer, Seve Ballesteros, grew up poor, hitting his balls on the sand beaches of his small fishing town in Spain. He became one of the best golfers ever at hitting the short shots approaching the green…especially when he was in a sand trap. (He became no. 1 in the world — and poor no more!)

Hopefully you will find a lonely place with wide open grass, mowed just short enough for you to keep the ball in sight. You claim this territory like the cattlemen claimed grazing land, because you are there first and know how to use it. These spaces can be yours to learn the Short Game – that is everything from 100 yards out, to the green itself. To improve in golf, however, you must have a target, and you must know how far that target is. You cannot learn much if you just hit the ball out into the wide-open space (pleasant as that may be the first few times).

So, one of first things you should learn is how to pace out distances. Here’s why: Much of the delight you will have in golf is the discovery of your own talent, and you will find that in practice, and more practice… every time you have a free hour. For that, you need a solitary practice ground, where you know how far your targets are away from you.

You can continue to work at this practice area only if you use it precisely, with no swing more than a half swing at first. You must hit the ball with very little power until you can always hit it straight. And when you can hit it straight you must pace off just how far you want to hit it, because the second rule is that you must not hit it too far, out of your decided boundaries. Terrified drivers or broken windows in the neighborhood are a sure way to lose your precious space. Do not hit it anywhere near someone walking their dog.

Now you can hit hundreds of balls inside this practice field, and get very good at pitching the ball thirty feet, then 50 , perhaps 100 or more feet – toward a target and hitting precisely, not wildly. You’ll learn to swing methodically and relaxed, and to bring the edge of the club between the ground and the lower half of the ball – lifting it into the air — every time. You will get better and better, and you will do this for Free!


Copyright 2019 — David Hon

Golf Riches For You To Discover

My nephew is about to retire, and he says that although he loves to play golf, it is far too expensive for him to do on a retiree’s budget. Unfortunately, he feels that it is a “rich man’s sport.” At 75, we have to believe that our richness is in years, and in savvy. If you do believe that, you can find ways to make this game of Golf much more affordable.

Let’s start with a statistic (probably Golf Digest…but you tell me): the average golfer now spends $2,700 a year. Given, that is not a figure that recommends itself to the homeless, but on the other hand, people can spend that much or a lot more on boating, skiing, tennis, multiple vacations, or generous Christmas gifts. So before we decide golf is too expensive, let’s say “compared with what – and what level of that what?” Golf trips with all your clubs to Saint Andrews famous course in Scotland could indeed cost you a few dollars (or pounds). But that is not a required level for your golf at all. Much joy can be had on a simple municipal course.

So, if you’ve decided that a little golf might not be totally out of budget for you, let’s start on the American trait of “cost-whittling”.

Time of day: First of all, if you are retired, you can choose your time of day at public courses. The cost usually reflects peak times and goes down from there. For instance, Saturday at 10am will be the most popular tee time. Almost all courses offer discounted rounds to the general public on certain days of the week or times of day. (Ordinary rich golfers DO have to work except for the most popular times…a sad but true fact).

 Your equipment: As I have mentioned in a few posts, at the Goodwill or other second hand stores, you can find a carry-bag and 4 or 5 adequate clubs you need to start for way under $40. Then later add better individual clubs — or even 3 or 4 year old full sets — that you find online for astronomically less than their new price. You should be able to find decent balls for a dollar each. A dirty little secret: Most experienced golfers use only about 7-8 clubs maximum each round, because they discover what works best for them.

Your Age: Almost all courses have a 25-30% discounts for Seniors, but many offer 50% off to Super Seniors over 75. You might say the older you are the cheaper golf becomes. Why should juniors have all the benefits of age? After all, you’ll probably be old longer than they are young.

Trade Volunteer Work: The one special currency that golf course managers have is the ability to grant free rounds to Volunteers. Here’s a notice at one course looking for volunteers. I asked if free courses were given to volunteers who do certain amounts of work, and they said of course.

One very important consideration is that golf courses are small businesses in themselves. You have free time and perhaps some skills they need; they have a golf course they can let you use in exchange. (You’ll have to admit there is potential here.) As in most small businesses, they have limited needs for special skills, and they cannot afford either to employ staff for those small jobs, or pay market rates for part time employees. For instance, if you have been an accountant and can help during tax time, you might get a few rounds as payment.

It comes down to your own creativity and your own moxie. These gifts of yours don’t have to wither with older age. You have the idea and you negotiate the deal. Be entrepreneurial. One short trek through brushy or swampy areas will reveal many excellent quality balls that are too remote for rich golfers to thrash and slog just to get their errant ball. Golf shops can resell these for $1 apiece. They could structure a way for you to bring in these balls for a quarter, or for rounds of golf.  It may mean that you have to fight rattlesnakes in the scrub brush on desert courses, but at least these creatures will not discriminate on the basis of your age.


Copyright 2019 — David Hon