What are the different changes golfers should make to keep playing their best?

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Welcome to Play Smart, a game improvement column published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday by Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen (who you can follow on Twitter here).

Golf is a lifelong game, which means the journey to keep improving never ends. In that vein, for today’s Play Smart, we’ll be looking at a few factual things golfers can do to ensure their games age gracefully.

1. Eat less than before…

Your metabolism slows as you age, which means your eating habits may stay exactly the same, but you’re more likely to gain weight anyway. Gary Player, who in many ways started the fitness revolution in golf, says he adopted a diet of eating “half of what he used to,” and says that watching your diet becomes more important as golfers get older:

“I now put diet at 60% because as you get older you put on weight and the weight stops a train,” Player says. “When you get heavier and try to swing with the same force as when you were young, which you can’t do but try to do, it’s a quick way to hurt yourself.”

2. …but incorporate more protein

Golfers also tend to lose more muscle mass as they age. To avoid these effects, one must do strength training and replenish those muscles with more protein. It’s something that’s often overlooked – a recent study suggests senior citizens aren’t eating enough protein – so while your diet may need to be adjusted as you age, a healthy diet for golfers older people should probably focus more on protein.

3. Stretch more (especially your hips)

Golfers’ flexibility often decreases as they get older, and if you sit at a desk all day, your hip mobility will be one of the hardest hit areas of your body. Maintaining mobility in your hips requires an active stretching routine, which will allow more rotation of your hips for a more powerful turn.

4. Longer, lower heart rate activities

While there are definitely benefits to getting your heart pumping (we’ll get to those soon), there’s also evidence that some of the best training golfers can do as they age resides in “Zone 2” level training. This, in a nutshell, is longer, slower workouts, where your heart rate is running at a slightly elevated but consistent level. Walking on the golf course is a great example of this type of activity, and it can all provide real health benefits.

5. Bullet train

Your distance will likely decrease as you get older, but it doesn’t have to be! You’re never too old to practice high speed, and it can go a long way to helping you hit the ball further, longer. It doesn’t have to be difficult either. You can invest in a launch monitor and dedicate an hour a week to swinging hard, not worrying about direction. Or you can adopt a formal training system. There are plenty of great options out there, but whatever you choose, you’ll come out the other side faster.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Contributor Golf.com

Luke Kerr-Dineen is Director of Service Journalism at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role, he oversees the brand’s game improvement content covering instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s media platforms.

Alumnus of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort golf team, where he helped them rise to No. 1 in the NAIA National Rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Journalism at Columbia University. and in 2017 was named “Rising Star” of the News Media Alliance. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.