Earlier this week, Jack Nicklaus was interviewed at the Honda Classic, where he is pretty heavily involved with his charities and of course with the venue. During the interview, he said something pretty interesting from which we can learn a little. When he was asked whether he had ever made major swing changes during his career, he said:
“If you don’t make changes you don’t improve. I don’t care who you are, because your body continually changes. My body at age 46 was certainly a lot different than it was at 25, or at 35, and as is Tiger’s body a lot different at age 35 as it was at age 25….I think [tour players] need to make those [changes]. As their body changes they need to make those changes to keep up with their body, to keep up with the game.”
Coming from arguably the best golfer ever, I think that there are certainly some things that we can take from this. First, overtime your body is going to change, therefore your swing is going to change. We may accept the fact that as we get older we are not going to being able to hit the ball as far, and so we just keep swinging how we always have and let the ball not travel as far it used to. Another option is to keep trying to improve and make changes to lessen the effects of age on our bodies. If we look at Jack for example, we can see that this is possible. In the 1998 Masters tournament, as a 58-year-old man, Jack was in the top 20 in the field in driving distance, averaging close to 300 yards. At age 58!! Improved equipment certainly played a role in him keeping up with the young guns. However, the fact that a 58-year-old with bad hips (which had to be replaced the following year because they got so bad) was able to out drive most of the younger players with equally good equipment shows what is possible if adjustments are made to counteract the effects of an aging body.
Second, we should take from Jack’s statement that the body affects the swing, which may seem obvious, but we can see this truth from a little different perspective here. Even with a tour player, such as Tiger, who stays pretty consistent with fitness routines is going to need to make adjustments with his swing to stay on top. If Tiger’s swing is affected by his body in spite of all he does to stay consistent, how much more is the average golfer, who is probably much less diligent with fitness, going to be affected by time! To lessen the affects of the body on your golf swing, it will be important to stay active and keep yourself limber and strong. It was probably much easier when you were in high school and college to stay active, but the demands of everyday life, including family and a job (which may keep you confined to a cubicle all day), begin to take their toll on your extracurricular life, which often translates into less physical activity.
As you make fitness a part of your golf game, you will not need make as many adjustments to your game as you get older and you will be able to enjoy it longer. We can see this with Jack, or more recently with Tom Watson in the British Open. Even Tom has had to make some adjustments as he has gotten older, but when we watched him contend two years ago at Turnberry, his swing did not look much different than it did when he last won the Open Championship in ’83. Being consistent with an exercise routine as you get older will not just benefit your golf game, but it will positively affect the rest of your life.