How to Stop Losing Distance as You Get Older

By Matthew DeBord

Senior golfer studying his next shot
Golfers can do many things to stop losing distance as they age. But the two easiest ways to continue hitting the ball a decent distance are equipment changes and swing changes. In fact, golf equipment manufacturers have developed a variety of technologies that are designed to allow older golfers to hit the ball far enough to continue enjoying the game. A more difficult way to sustain distance is through fitness and flexibility training. Not all aging golfers are willing to commit to such a program. But the great Sam Snead, who won professional tournaments into his 40s, argued for lifetime flexibility as the key to good golf in the Golden Years, so it's worth considering.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

  1. Change your golf ball. Years ago, balls designed for distance were hard as rocks and offered little in the way of feel around the greens. That's all changed. There's now a dizzying array of great golf balls for seniors to choose from. Generally speaking, as you get older, you want to trade in your tour-caliber ball for one that's designed to produce longer shots off the tee, yet still provide adequate feel around the greens.
  2. Use more flexible shafts. Stiff shafts are harder to "load" with distance-generating power as your swing gets slower and shorter with age. Using the right shaft can improve your game, so don't be afraid to drop down to a more flexible shaft, replacing an "S" stiff shaft with an "R" regular shaft in your driver, for example. Older golfers can also experiment with longer driver shafts.
  3. Add loft to your driver. Depending on your swing, a higher-lofted driver can help maintain distance because it makes the ball carry more through the air. Today's best drivers for seniors tend to have 10.5 to 13 degrees of loft.
  4. Play a draw. Hitting a drawing, right-to-left ball flight (for a right-hander) will run more in the fairway, helping to add distance to shots that would not roll as far with a fading, left-to-right ball flight.
  5. Undertake a golf strength and flexibility program. The key to distance in the golf swing is the ability to make a full turn away from the ball and swing the club smoothly and swiftly back through. Older golfers lose the ability to do this, as their muscles become less flexible and they lose strength in their core, arms, legs and shoulders. Stretching and light workouts can help avert distance-robbing tightness in the muscles and shortness in the golf swing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Think about forgetting your ego and moving up to the next tee box. Maybe you've always played from the blue tees (or even the black tournament tees). As you age, you can shorten the golf course and retain your distance by shifting to the white tees or the gold senior tees. Golf courses offer different teeing options for precisely this reason. If you're a female player who hasn't used the ladies; tees, consider it as you grow older.
  • Get rid of long and even middle irons, replacing them with woods or hybrids. Long irons need to be hit crisply in order to generate enough backspin to produce height and distance. Older players may want to switch to hybrids or woods to replace their 3, 4, 5, and even 6 irons.
  • Distance isn't everything. Almost every golfer loses distance as he or she ages. Remember that you can be long but in the trees, or short but in the fairway. Ironically, as you lose distance, your scores may improve because you become more accurate.

About the Author

Matthew DeBord has written about sports, cars, and wine since 1994 for a variety of publications. Formerly the golf columnist for the “Improper Hamptonian,” he has covered major championship tournaments and played some of the best courses in America. He graduated from Clemson University and has a master's degree from New York University.