I recently played a round with a friend in his early 70s who said he’s anxious to turn 80. Seems his club has a “rule of 90”—he can’t play tournaments from the forward tees until the sum of his age and handicap total at least 90—and he’s desperate to gain the additional yardage.
Which is just further proof of something I’ve been thinking—and banking on—for years: Unlike almost everything else, golf gets better as we get older.
I’m not talking about the Tour pros, although it’s hard not to envy the players on the Champions Tour (that’s what they’re calling it now, right? My memory is older, too): Golf has gotten better for them merely by still being available to them. But for us “real” golfers, aging as we keep playing hasn’t only brought wisdom, patience, experience, and some tolerance, it’s also gifted us with an entirely new set of skills.
True, one of them is not distance. But once I realized that I wasn’t able to hit it long I gave up trying to and found accuracy. Less yardage has also meant more short game, which has many advantages: Pitching and chipping are far less taxing on my creaking body, and are more fun to practice. (Although I refuse to say, yet, that working on my short game means my driver.)
As for technique, I’d been hoping that an aging body would force me to slow my swing, something I was never able to do despite years of lessons. Indeed, my swing has not only gotten slower, it’s gotten shorter, another plus.
Speaking of lessons, it was only in the last few years that I was able to swallow my pride, shut my mouth, and open my ears, all of which allowed me to find a pro I could connect with. The basis of everything he’s taught me—resulting in the best, most consistent golf of my life—is my body’s chronic inability to make the classic in-square-in swing I was chasing for decades. Once he told me to strive for effective rather than ideal, my results and outlook improved.
And I’ve noticed other reasons that age is the golfer’s friend:
There’s no reason to lift your head in an attempt to watch the ball if you can’t see the ball past about 75 yards.
There’s no point grinding over a putt if the grinding is just the sound of your joints.
My opponent says four, I hear five, forget, and write down six.
I know walking is good for me, but carts are our magic carpet.
It’s easy to stay “in the moment” when you’ve forgotten where you just were and can’t remember where you wanted to go.
You don’t have to lie about taking a sick day when you’re really running out to play golf, and there’s no feeling guilty about neglecting the kids.
And maybe the best reason of all, you have more time to play more.
Finally—much as I hate to ever use that word—growing older in golf means living with that gnawing thought in the back of my mind that there are only so many rounds left. Yet I’ve found that to be liberating, forcing me to appreciate the activity, camaraderie, and passion that are unique to this wonderful game.
In golf, getting older truly does mean getting better.