Now that the weather is warmer and COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are not as strict as this time last year, maybe it’s time to pick up a new hobby or sport to get outdoors and get the blood flowing again! Well, it’s been suggested by many that golf is a great sport to start playing—no matter your age or skill level!  

Golf can keep you fit – The website Getting Old and Fit (www.gettingoldandfit.com/is-golf-good-exercise-for-seniors/) says golf can help seniors improve their health and quality of life because it “builds strength and flexibility in the muscles of the player.” It also suggests that golf helps with balance and tones muscles of the core, arms, back and hips. The site also explains that the swinging and walking involved in golfing provides good cardiovascular exercise. “These actions will get your heart rate up and increase the speed of calorie burning.”

Golf stimulates your brain – Golf doesn’t just enhance your physical health, but your mental well-being as well. Seniors Lifestyle magazine says “senior golfers especially can improve their social connectivity by meeting friends or community members for recreation games around their local course.” The magazine says players can reap “social and cognitive benefits” from hitting the links and “strategically mapping your way around the golf course and having to deal with unpredicted results may help keep your brain capacity unwavering to build a health state of cognition.”

The science clearly shows golf is a great way to stimulate your mind and work various muscles in your body, so the question is: How do we get started? The following guidance is from longtime LPGA Golf Professional Marian Geist who can be found at www.yourgolfsolutions.com

Question: Why do you think golf is a great sport for people to take up even in their later years?

Answer: As a golf professional over the past 23 years, I’ve seen golfers of all ages improve their quality of life — especially seniors. By the age of 50, many find that most of their time, energy and attention has been spent on career, raising children, caring for aging parents, babysitting grandchildren, or volunteering, etc. Golf is something for you. It provides a unique opportunity to turn some of these resources toward a personal project that can be fun and extremely rewarding. In my opinion, the BIG THREE benefits of becoming a “competent golfer” are: enhancing one’s social life; improving physical abilities such as balance, strength, and coordination; and learning to have fun while being patient and kind with oneself.

Question:  Do you recommend that a senior start out by taking private or group lessons?

Answer: It mostly depends on the personal preferences and schedule flexibility of the golfer and the quality of the group instruction. I’ve gotten feedback about other group instruction that I thought was pretty good and, unfortunately, I have also heard some horror stories. However, I can say this: 1. Not all golf instruction or golf instructors are the same, and 2. It’s more important that seniors make sure they experience “good chemistry” with their instructor rather than the type of lesson they schedule. I don’t mean good chemistry as in having compatible personalities (though that’s important too). It’s more about the instructor being dedicated to helping the senior identify what they want from the game and to provide the support and guidance to achieve it. So, I recommend starting with one group session or one private lesson. The only caveat to this is that if a golfer needs undivided attention because of a previous injury, current physical concerns, or has never even held a golf club or hit balls at a driving range, it’s better to do a short private lesson first. Even the most talented group instructors cannot offer long periods of undivided attention in a group setting.

Question: Do you offer special lessons for seniors?

Answer: Up until this year, I ran a seniors group called the “Rockers” at Renditions Golf Course for over 10 years. It was a discounted membership of sorts. I’ve found that, generally speaking, seniors take a bit longer to learn and train their body to make powerful, consistent golf swings. With the huge influx of golfers last year during the pandemic, I found that many people want to learn with friends (some of whom were over 50 and some who were not). So, to uncomplicate things this year, I have made the discounted membership available to all golfers. 

I believe the most important aspect of taking lessons is to make sure golfers get instruction on the golf course. What golfers achieve at the driving range and practice area does not usually transfer well to the golf course without some golf course playing lesson experience. I offer individual and group playing lessons. All my packages and programs include this service as well.

Question: Should beginners start by contacting a golf pro or instructor to find out what specific items are needed before their first lesson?

Answer: Before a first lesson many don’t even know whether they will enjoy playing golf, so I don’t recommend buying anything. Most instructors should have basic clubs they can let new golfers use during lessons. Lesson takers should check with the facility and inquire about the dress code. For example, most facilities prohibit denim jeans and T-shirts. Other than that, dress in loose, comfortable clothing, and wear tennis or athletic shoes. Try to avoid footwear with significantly raised heels. Also, if someone has clubs—even if they are old—I recommend bringing them to the lesson. The instructor can evaluate what you have and make suggestions for the future. 

For those wanting to play golf, and not simply take lessons, the following basics are required:

  • Golf balls (They don’t have to be expensive, but of the same make and model.)
  • Tees
  • Coin or ball marker to use when putting
  • Golf bag (You cannot just put a few clubs in your friend’s bag.)
  • Clubs (Minimum: one club and putter. Maximum: 13 clubs and a putter. Average: a driver, hybrid, a few irons like 7, 9, and a sand wedge, and a putter.)

Geist says it is OK to purchase a set of used, but high-quality golf clubs. She maintains that simply putting new grips on clubs can make them feel brand-new. “I suggest staying away from off-brand starter clubs sold at the huge stores or online. If you can, buy good quality clubs in the beginning (new or used) from a shop such as Duke’s Golf in Annapolis. They will make learning easier and can last a lifetime.” 

If you’re ready “fore” some golf—no matter your age or ability level—this is the year to get out there on the green and swing into a new sport or to tweak the golf skills you’ve developed over the decades!

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