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Learn to play golf later in life

I decided to learn to play golf later in life. For a person over 40, there are very few options left as far as sports to consider learning. I love tennis and badminton, but these are a young man’s sports. I mean I can still play them but I am pretty much dead after 15 minutes on the court. And that is not an exaggeration.

Golf is different.

To play golf later in life, all I need is the ability to walk and hit the ball every 2-3 minutes. That’s actually not that hard. And to make it even easier, they have golf buggies that take care of the walking part, so all I need is to whack a ball with a stick 70+ times within 4 hours or so and I’m done.

Jokes aside, it is actually a great sport and I have become a massive fan of it over the last few months. I took it up to give myself a reason to walk. I had to change my lifestyle quite dramatically to get fitter. Walking 10,000 steps every day was my first goal. Losing weight was another. After that, I will try more strenuous exercises. But walking was my first step to get a bit more healthy, and golf seemed like a perfect choice, but it became a little bit of an obsession. I am someone who does not get satisfied with just playing a sport. I have to be competitive. I have no choice in that matter. I have to be good at a game or I will not play. Starting to play golf later in life is a disadvantage, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Learn to play golf later in life

Fred Couples with his legendary swing

I searched YouTube for the best swing out there among the tour players and the best swing that I could find was that of Fred Couples. It looked like he put absolutely no effort into his golf swing and yet he won masters and many other tournaments. He still plays now on the champions tour. That’s how I want to play golf later in life. His cool swing is a bit of an inspiration to me.

What interested me even more was the fact that he has a bad back. I saw him play a tournament recently where he could not bend down to pick up a ball from the cup, and yet he was still playing and he was still competitive. I want to play a sport that can be played at the age of 70, and golf fits the bill.

To be able to play golf over the age of 50, however, I had to learn to swing it like Freddie Couples. Learn the effortless swing to give me a chance to really enjoy the game. I became a member of a golf club recently and I watch members play competitions every Saturday. I practice at my nets, which are next to the 7th tea. What I see is not encouraging. I think I have seen maybe 5 people who had a reasonable swing. Everyone else is just trying to hit the ball as hard as they can and the results are usually abysmal. The 7th is a 180m par 3. I think I’ve seen 2 people hit green in regulation over the last 6 months on that hole. That’s not great. I see frustration, and anger usually directed at the clubs. Well, I know that it’s not the clubs. 🙂

I don’t want to play like that. I know I could, and I know I could even compete against good players like that, with the help of the handicap, but I just didn’t want to play like that.  Hoping to hit a ball once or twice a round. That’s not for me, but that is what happens with my fellow golf club members. They have a beer after the game and marvel at that one shot they did on the 17th. I want every shot to be great, or at least most of them.

The trouble with golf is that it seems really difficult to learn

I think the sport is made to look hard to learn to support the golf teaching industry, but it’s not hard at all when it is taught properly.

I sought help from a local pro. Booked 10 lessons with him and practiced his drills and suggestions every day. Nothing worked. He kept finding faults in my stance, my angles, my sequence, pretty much with everything, and I got really frustrated with my inability to GET it. I stopped the lessons after 6 and I decided to get to the bottom of this game.

I hated the video analysis, where they compared me to DJ or some other top PGA player and pointed out my mistakes. But never really taught me the essence of that swing. Just asked me to hit the ball, then spent hours trying to correct my swing one tiny issue and angle at the time. I literally tried to remember every little detail he told me as I was lifting the club. The angles, the posture, the length of the backswing, the position of the knees, the wrist. There were 50 things I had to think about when hitting the ball. That was insane.

I’ve always been pretty good at sports, and I am a good tennis and badminton player, so it was very frustrating not to be able to play golf. I am a self-taught badminton player, but golf was a mystery for me and for weeks I struggled with the game.

My Eureka moment came after watching an old video where the instructor wasn’t actually discussing video analysis but explained what the swing is supposed to feel like and what it’s supposed to do.

I got it! I mean, I finally understood it.

Golf is simply a game where we have to put a ball in the hole using a stick. And a swing is not a combination of 50 different moves and actions that we must take. NO! It’s just what we need to do to nudge the ball in the direction of the hole. That’s IT. I can swing a stick, I can swing a tennis racquet. With golf, it’s a little awkward but it’s the same thing. Swing is what we do to propel the ball forward. And the target is the most critical thing. Keep the target in my mind as I swing the stick and the ball goes exactly where I want it to go. Well, not exactly,  and not always… 🙂 but much closer to the target than if I only try to execute all the steps of the swing.

It doesn’t mean that I could play overnight, but I knew what to practice and how. First I had to UN-learn the garbage I was taught by the golf pro. Fred Couples, Greg Norman, or Bubba Watson learned golf themselves. Just like I learned badminton, they picked up a golf club and worked out how to use it to send the ball towards the green. I wanted to speed up the process and got a few lessons. Mistake! They only confused me.

I’ve been practicing and learning slowly, but I could see improvements almost every week. However last month I made the largest leap forward. My swing is smoother, softer, and feels natural. I don’t actually have an official handicap, but today I played 6 holes, made 4 pars, and 2 bogies. That’s actually not bad. I am not good at it yet, but I’m well on the way to be good enough to really enjoy this great game. I need a good excuse to make my 10,000 steps every day, and if I’m not playing golf well, then I’m not going to continue.

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