Golf Exercises for Seniors: The Key to Playing Golf at Any Age
Golf is indeed a lifetime sport. Many seniors credit the game in helping them feel young. Other seniors however cite that their deteriorating range of motion and loss of strength keep them from playing the game.
For those in that second camp, I am here to share some great golf exercises. Seniors that need to feel rejuvenated and stronger can incorporate these into their daily routine. In doing so, they can eventually start feeling better about their abilities and get back out on the links.
As I do anytime that I’m asked to speak on the fitness aspects of the game, I turned to my good friend, Scott Shepard. Scott is the owner of Driven Golf Fitness based in Lake Mary, Florida. He is also the Golf Performance and Therapy Director at the Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute.
Scott is a Golf Digest Top 50 Golf Fitness Trainer in America. He is also a 2021 Golf Fitness Association of America award winning trainer.
I asked Scott what the most limiting physical issues for golfers were. He shared the following…
“The biggest limitation is in range of motion. Limitations in range of motion for golfers include poor Trunk Rotation, Trail Shoulder External Rotation, Lead Arm Lat Mobility, and Lead Side Hip Rotation. This is especially true for seniors.”
As we talked further, he shared that these were issues for many golfers, regardless of age. However, it goes without saying that older golfers were more prone to these deficiencies.
Beyond range of motion, there are other key areas seniors, and all golfers for that matter, should focus in on.
The key areas that seniors need to look at when putting together an exercise regimen included:
- Flexibility (Stretching)
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Great Golf Exercises for Seniors
We will break down a few key areas that Scott identified for senior golfers to focus on. These include, Stretching, Strength, Endurance, and Balance.
Warm-Up Exercises: Flexibility & Stretching:
1. Torso Rotations
2. Torso Tilts
3. Trail External Stretch
4. Lat Stretch
5. Hip Post Stretch
Scott said that all of these stretches can easily be done with a PVC or wooden dowel rod. He recommends holding each position for 5-8 seconds and doing 3-5 reps for each.
Strength Exercises for Senior Golfers
As we age, we are slowly declining in muscle mass. Scott shared with me that studies suggest muscle mass peaks in the 20–30-year-old range and then decreases from 3-8% per year until age 50. At that point it then begins a more rapid decline.
One area to consider in terms of strength for seniors, and all golfers really, is grip strength. Grip strength is highly related to clubhead speed. Scott said that studies have shown grip strength deteriorates dramatically as we age.
The average grip strength for a 30-year-old male is around 100 pounds of pressure. The average for a 70-year-old male is only 50-60 pounds of pressure.
Concurrently, clubhead speed for a 30-year-old male is around 100 mph average, and less than 80 mph in those over 65 years of age.
Simply put, the only way to stop the decline in strength is to stress the muscle and neuromuscular system through resistance training. A general recommendation for strength training would be to perform base strength exercises at least twice per week.
This would include exercises in the following areas:
- Upper Body Push
- Upper Body Pull
- Knee Dominant (Squat type)
- Hip Dominant (Deadlift type)
- Core Exercise
- Some form of loaded carry or step patterns to challenge the core and stabilizer musculature
According to Scott, a good program example would be the following:
- Cable Machine Row (Single or Double Arm)
- Machine or Dumbbell based Chest Press exercise
- Kettlebell or Dumbbell Squat to Bench level
- Lateral Step Outs with Band Loading Press Outs
- Lat Pull-down
- Triceps Press Down in Golf Pattern
- Hinge Lifts with Dumbbells
- Marching in Place with Dumbbell carry on each side
The goal is to pick a weight that is challenging for about 8-10 reps. That is a decent strength zone that is safe enough to avoid potential injury versus a weight you could only lift 2-3 times.
Remember heavier is better for getting stronger but it’s always risk verse reward in that scenario. Scott emphasized that seniors could maintain strength with slightly lighter loads in the 8-10 rep range with less chance of injury.
Endurance Exercises for Seniors
Another factor for senior golfers to consider when training for golf is the need for good base level of physical endurance. While golf is not a cardiovascular challenge, it is an endurance task from the standpoint of the time spent standing and walking.
Depending on whether you are able to walk the course or have to use a cart, the task can be much more physical than many realize. The average golfer will walk more than 10,000 steps during a round of golf.
Making practice swings and regular shots can add up to hundreds of swings per round and this can be taxing to the back and body for the average golfer, let alone senior golfers.
The fact is golf is one of the few sports that challenges us to stay in good enough shape to participate as we advance in age. So, a good preparation for golf would include training that improves physical endurance.
From 1998 to 2011, I was the golf professional at the Winter Park Golf Course in Winter Park, FL. This very busy, 9-hole, municipal golf course is primarily a walking track. During my time there, the average age of the membership was roughly 70 years of age. There were a good percentage of those members that were above 80. There were even a few well into their 90’s.
Many of those individuals walked the golf course. I heard time and time again that the secret to their longevity and health was indeed walking the course.
One of the best ways to keep endurance up is to perform a regular cardiovascular exercise routine. This can be done with or without equipment. The best type of cardio is usually a form of interval cardio. This could be done on an exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, rower, or just walking/jogging around your neighborhood.
To perform an interval method, you just need a timer. The idea behind this type of training is as follows:
- Perform a low intensity (walk/jog level) activity for 1-2 minutes
- Perform a moderate activity (run) for about 1 minute
- Finish with more of a fast burst activity for about 30 seconds and then slow it back done to the walk level over the next 30 seconds
That total would be a 4 minute cardio interval which you would repeat. You can start slow, and work your way up to about 20-25 minutes of this for 2-3 times per week.
In doing so, you will be much better prepared for a round of golf.
Remember you can do this on any equipment, an exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, rower, or just walking/jogging around your neighborhood. The key is to exert yourself to a similar level as explained by the walk, jog, run, sprint concept.
Scott does not recommend sprints for the senior golfers that are not able to push to that level. Then can do a brisk walk at that fast burst level.
Another thing to consider is the need for improved endurance for swinging the club. Think of this more like being in “game” shape.
One way to improve this is to work on an upper body endurance activity like battle ropes for short intervals. 15-20 seconds on and off for multiple sets. You can also perform slightly weighted swings with a swing fan or weight club.
These exercises will improve your swing endurance if you perform them 1-2 times per week as part of your training.
Balance & Golf Flexibility
Another key area for senior’s golfers that can affect the swing from an efficiency and speed perspective is the relative level of dynamic balance and stability they possess. We know that the average swing speed for senior golfer is much less than younger golfers. Often, we think of strength being the main factor for this loss of speed, however in many cases balance is just as important.
It’s necessary to understand that you will only swing as fast as your body will allow you to safely. If you feel you will either lose balance and fall or lose balance and miss hit the ball, you will naturally slow down your movement and lose distance.
Exercises that work on dynamic balance include:
- Single leg stance with swings
- Stagger stance with rotation
- Various band exercises that challenge the golfer to stay in balance
This all can be very helpful to improve the golfer’s ability to feel stable while swinging fast.
Simple exercises that strengthen the hips, knees, ankles are good to improve stability. Especially in the lower body which will allow for proper transfer of the upper body, arms and club to increase swing efficiency and speed.
Adding balance exercises into your routine can be a game changer for the senior golfer.
Wrapping Up Golf Exercises for Seniors:
Getting older in no way means your golf game needs to suffer. You can keep playing great golf well into your 60’s, 70’s and beyond. It really boils down to incorporating some exercises that focus on Flexibility, Strength, Endurance and Balance.
One very important point to close with, and one that Scott echoes. Please consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.