Objective of the Old Golfer Report

The Old Golfer Report is intended to assist people who begin to play golf later in life. I began to play golf when I was 61. I think I might be able to provide some insights. This is my contribution to the game of golf. Incidentally, I'm not a good golfer but play well enough to enjoy the game as a fun recreational activity. I want to get better and would love to be a good golfer.

Just Grip It and Rip It

Before I had lessons I just went to a driving range and hit balls as hard as I could. I didn't realize that your hands need to grip the club lightly. I held on tightly and pounded away. The ball didn't go very far. I was straining all kinds of things in my body. I couldn't do sit-ups for days after pounding a hundred and fifty balls. I swore that if I got back to normal I would never hit another ball.

Also, I got blisters on my hands. I couldn't hit balls again for two weeks even if I wanted to. But I was getting my body adjusted to swinging a golf club and learning to protect my hands from blisters. What if I had traveled to Florida for a week at a golf school? I would have spent thousands of dollars and maybe I would have been incapacitated after one day. It's a good thing to get your body adjusted to swinging a golf club. I suggest doing it gradually - not the way I did it.

This is a Golf Club - You Hit the Ball with the Club

I finally got around to taking golf lessons. I envied the people around me at the driving range who were making beautiful golf shots and wondered if I could ever make decent golf shots. Sometimes I would tell the person hitting next to me that he was making great shots. Usually, the response would be either a quizzical look or a remark such as "golf is about numbers - not pictures." Occasionally, someone would simply say thanks and later give me the golf balls that he was not planning to hit. I always liked getting the extra golf balls and I was willing to appear less than cool to get that result (I was not exactly exuding coolness anyway by bouncing golf balls along the ground). I was hoping that golf lessons would turn me into a somewhat cool golfer - I knew that coolness would be unachievable.

I took group lessons and private lessons (a total of about 25 lessons). I actually liked the group lessons better because the focus was not on me all the time. I'm not a quick learner and with group lessons I had more time to try to figure out what I had just been taught.

To supplement the golf lessons (actually to explain the golf lessons) I subscribed to Golf Magazine and Golf Digest. I watched the Golf Channel and bought golf instruction books and DVDs. (I recommend a book by Bobby Clampett entitled The Impact Zone. Everyone has a favorite golf instruction book and that is my favorite.) I really benefited greatly from these materials - my eyes were opened to the secrets of golf. Based on what I've learned, I pretty much know what to do.  As the man says: "Nothing to it but to do it."

Sticks and Stones

The earliest golfers likely used sticks to hit stones. I prefer using golf clubs to hit golf balls. Initially, I bought a large quantity of used golf balls - I also had a couple dozen new golf balls and I planned to use them when I got to be a good golfer. I have found so many balls that they have become a nuisance. What do I do with all of them? Suffice it to say that I don't plan to buy any new balls. I don't think it makes any difference whether I play with new balls or old balls. I'm just not good enough for it to matter.

Golf clubs have cost me a fortune because I didn't have a plan. I kept making impulse purchases thinking that different equipment would help a lot. For example, I was leaving all my putts short so I bought a heavy putter. It didn't help. I was having trouble hitting my driver so I bought a 3 wood to use off the tee. It didn't help. I decided to eliminate my 3-6 irons and play hybrids. I have returned to using a 5 iron and a 6 iron and use only one of the five hybrids I bought. All the clubs I bought were expensive - I regret wasting all that money. I suggest that new golfers talk with experienced golfers and follow a club buying plan.

I'll close this section with a story. I found a Cougar 5 golf ball. I had never heard of a Cougar golf ball. I played it on March 9, 2007. I made a par on the 1st hole and a hole-in-one on the 2nd hole at Hilltop Golf Club in Alexandria Virginia. I put the Cougar 5 on display in my home. Maybe I should be playing Cougar golf balls. (See a picture of the second hole at Hilltop Golf Club on page 2.) (On April 8, 2009 I made an eagle deuce on the par 4 9th hole at Hilltop Golf Club using a Callaway 1 golf ball. On March 21, 2010 I made another eagle deuce on the same hole using a Nike 3 golf ball. On June 27, 2010 I did it again using a Wilson Staff 1 golf ball. I have made more eagles on this hole than I've made birdies!)

Are You a Solo? Why Don't You Join Us? OK I Will (gulp).

I enjoy playing alone or with a friend. I don't like playing with strangers. As it turns out I play with strangers all the time. The idea is to keep things moving on the golf course and that means playing with strangers - I won't get into the dynamics of how this happens but it happens frequently and is unavoidable. You just have to get used to it.

When you play with strangers (or even with friends) it's a certainty that the people you are playing with couldn't care less about how you're playing as long as it doesn't affect them. Golfers only care about how they're playing. Shirley MacLaine once said about Dean Martin: "He was nice to everyone but he didn't want nice to last too long." Likewise when playing with strangers, everyone will probably be reasonably nice knowing that nice will not last too long. So say "good shot" and act happy when someone makes a birdie. This is what golfers do. Of course you don't care but everyone knows that.

OK Ladies Play Away

A few years ago PGA tour professional Fred Funk was playing in a tournament with LPGA star Annika Sorenstam. When Annika outdrove Fred, Fred put a dress on over his pants and played the remainder of the hole wearing a dress.

I probably should be wearing a dress. I play with a ladies driver (Ping Rhapsody 14 degrees) and Ping ladies G5 mid irons. (I also use ladies golf balls when I find them.) I play better with the ladies clubs and that's what matters to me. Call me a sissy man but say it with respect - this game is about results.

A Good Walk Really Spoiled

Mark Twain wrote that playing golf was a good walk spoiled. In my case playing golf is a good walk really spoiled. I tore an ankle tendon practicing my golf swing and, although I've had surgery to repair the tendon, walking is somewhat painful for me. I couldn't play golf without a cart. (For new golfers, make sure to wear orthotics if you have flat feet.)

I play from the white tees at a short but challenging 9 hole golf course (par 31). I play from the white tees because my shots are relatively short. I've played about 150 rounds and have shot every score from 34-53 and my best score for each hole total is 20. I usually can count on having good things and bad things happen to me when I play. It's that kind of a game.

The Swing is the Thing

After almost 2 years of playing and after more than 25 lessons I learned that my swing is fundamentally flawed. How could this happen? How could I watch others play much better than me and not realize something was wrong? How could my instructors give me lesson after lesson and not tell me that my swing was fundamentally wrong and that I could never play good golf unless I changed my swing? (Actually, they were trying to tell me but I wasn't getting the message - it's a communication thing.)

How did I learn about my fundamentally flawed swing? I'm glad you asked. A new golf instructor came to the golf club where I play. I decided to try him and wanted to take a lesson on hitting the driver. He had me hit a couple of short iron shots. Right away he told me that my swing was fundamentally flawed and showed me how to fix it. It made a huge difference immediately. (The instructor was Andy Viglucci,PGA - I highly recommend him.)

I feel like I've lost a year of golfing but I see good things ahead. The lesson is don't settle for bad golf. If you don't think your game is where it should be, get good help. Don't fall in love with your instructors. It's natural to want to be loyal and you will build relationships with your instructors - I really like all the instructors I've had. But move on to someone else if it's not working. The objective is to play well. Playing well is fun - playing poorly is not fun.

He's Not Big but He's Slow

NFL legend Frank Gifford when commentating on Monday Night Football liked to use the phrase: "He's not big but he's slow". I was always amused until I realized he was talking about me. I just can't hit the golf ball very far. I'm not big and I have a relatively slow swing. So how can I play long courses? The answer is I should hit from the ladies tees (the red tees). Why are they ladies tees? They should be described as the most forward tees. If I could use the most forward tees, I might be able to post reasonable scores on long courses.

For example, I played at the Glade Valley Golf Club in Walkersville Maryland. The 11th hole is a par five 505 yard hole when played from the tips but a 357 yard hole when played from the most forward tees (the red ladies tees). I hit my driver from the white tees (10 yards in front of the tips) and just barely reached the fairway. I had hit a drive 160 yards and I was still 335 yards away from the green. The ladies tees were just 20 yards behind me. If I had hit from the ladies tees I would have only been 197 yards from the green which would have been just about right for 2 more shots to get on the green in regulation. So I suggest that golfers should play from the tees that are suitable for them (no more ladies tees just for ladies). It will make the game more fun and speed up play. More fun - faster play! Hey, maybe this is worth considering. I'm not stupid but I have good ideas.

It is What It is

It's a game. Don't get angry. Don't get annoyed. Don't throw your seven iron when you top your tee shot at the fourth hole. Don't even think about yelling at the guy giving basic lessons to his girl friend at the long third hole when you've been waiting to hit for ten minutes. When forced to play with people who create chaos and cause your score to head north, just take it in stride. When the guy behind you hits balls in front of you, just smile and be thankful you weren't killed. It's a game. Above all remember "Just don't screw up!"

The Obligatory Golf Joke

Rain or shine, every Saturday morning for years and years, a guy gets up at the crack of dawn and heads to the course to play. One morning he's driving to the course, barely awake, when he realizes that it's cold and pouring down rain.

Doing a U-turn, he goes back home where he takes off all his clothes, slips back into bed, and snuggles up next to his sleepy wife.

"It's freezing out there," he tells her.

And she says, "Yeah, can you believe my stupid husband is playing golf?"

   (See page 2 for information about the publisher of the Old Golfer Report.)


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