Some easy equipment fixes to help add distance as you age
Illustration by Eddie Guy
Editors' Note: This article is part of our comprehensive package on golfers considering retirement, which appears in our latest issue. Click here to read all the content from our Masters preview issue through our digital-edition app.
Just how much distance do golfers lose as they age? We looked at data from Arccos, a leader in performance analytics.
Collecting data from male golfers over a three-year period (2017-’19), Arccos says driving distance for those age 30 to 39 is about 234 yards. For those 40 to 49, it falls to 226—an eight-yard loss. For those 50 to 59, it declines another nine yards to 217, for a total loss of 17 yards. Those in their 60s? Don’t ask.
Luckily, advances in equipment can help. If you’re experiencing a noticeable loss in distance off the tee—10 yards or more—there’s a good chance a change in your driver setup can help. The easiest way to know for sure: a launch monitor. Don’t assume because you got fitted for clubs a few years ago that those specs will stay the same forever. Returning to the launch monitor can show how your swing has changed and offer insight into equipment changes that could result in more yards. When older players notice decreasing distance, they often add more loft. That’s a smart move in most cases. Drivers built the past few years deliver significantly less spin than they used to. Problem is, some golfers, especially those with slower swing speeds, need spin to keep the ball in the air. Going to a higher loft will naturally add launch angle and provide more spin, so it’s a win-win for many.
Don’t assume you automatically need a lighter, more flexible shaft. Shaft flex is often dictated more by how you swing than how fast. For example, a player whose swing has slowed but still has a lot of lag might want to continue using a stiffer shaft. “Changing the shaft changes the feel of the club, and the first thing the brain wants to do when it’s not comfortable is to automatically slow down,” says Tom Olsavsky, vice president of R&D for Cobra Golf. “That’s not to say a lighter, more flexible shaft won’t work, but fitting really comes into play when you’re changing shafts.”
Finally, it might also be time to ditch those longer irons. As speed drops, it gets harder to get the ball in the air. “You see on tour a number of players using utility irons or hybrids for that reason,” Olsavsky says. “If the best players in the world are trying to get more air under the ball on those shots, everyday players need it even more. The slower the swing, the more launch tends to be important, whether it’s off the tee or into the green.”