Paul Surniak, the 2021 Colorado PGA Section Patriot Award winner, is a Quarter Century PGA Member and the PGA Director of Instruction at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club at Fort Carson (Colorado).
Teaching with Bobby Clampett on the west coast of Florida during the winter, I engage many clients who are 60 years or older. They are always seeking ways to “extend their playing days” in golf, while avoiding aggravation of existing back injuries and other ailments. To help them play well into their 80s and beyond, fitness must be a part of their training, or their bodies will break down as they get older.
There are many different protocols for people who are looking to be more “golf fit.” But, it’s important to look at each golfer individually first, and determine where he or she is lacking in strength, flexibility, speed, etc. Before getting too deep into a program, however, I have them consult with their doctor to make sure it is safe. From there we put a program together specifically designed for them.
The process starts with communication, as we discuss any injuries they may have – back, knees, shoulders, arthritis – to determine what they can and cannot do in the golf swing. We tell them that strength is great, but flexibility has to be our primary focus. Lack of flexibility, especially rotational flexibility, is a key contributor to increased injuries because they often try to take the club back too far. We stretch out areas like their lower back, hip flexors and rotator cuffs with an array of stretching exercises, and I’ll assign three or four specific exercises for them to do safely and efficiently at home.
During a lesson, I teach them how to swing with good technique and clubhead speed, focusing on the primary swing components that facilitate this effort – weight shift, shoulder turn, hand action and arc.
Using video, we look at degrees of rotation in the shoulders. And after three or four lessons, each one initiated with a stretching regimen and at-home exercises in between, we’ll re-evaluate their swing to see if they’ve gotten deeper into their turn or gained a little bit of rotation in their swing.
After developing a reputation as a six-time Colorado long drive champion and someone who can still smack the ball in his 60s, word of mouth has increased awareness of what we do in regard to golf fitness. I even have 85-year-olds coming to me to add a few yards to their drives, and it’s like Christmas morning for them when they see the results.