Phil Mickelson shocked the golf world when he won the PGA Championship this past May. Never before had anyone 50 years old or older won a major championship, but Mickelson turned back the clock and played like the Mickelson of old instead of an old Mickelson. And a number of players on the PGA Tour Champions have said that once they turned 50, they are playing the best golf of their careers. But a closer examination of that reveals that that simply isn’t true, because if it were, they’d still be playing and winning on the PGA Tour.

There are a number of factors that go into the decline of professional golfers as they get into their upper 40s. Even Vijay Singh, who won a remarkable 22 times after turning 40, never won on the PGA Tour again after his 46th birthday. Factors cited include lack of motivation, greater effort to stay in shape physically, loss of nerve and just plain loss of coordination. Whatever the factors may be, eventually they catch up with all professional athletes. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated.

Can the same be said for teaching professionals? Hardly. While teaching does take some physical stamina, teachers only get better with age. USGTF member and teaching legend Bob Toski is still going strong well into his 90s, and other longtime gurus such as David Leadbetter, Rick Smith, Jim McLean and others are still going strong even though they are at the traditional retirement age. Only Butch Harmon among more prominent instructors has scaled his schedule way back, and even so he still teaches and advises a number of tour players.

The reason teachers get better with age is that every lesson is also a lesson for the teacher in how to get better. And with additional resources available, it stands to reason that more experience + more information = a better teacher. There does come a time when we all have to hang it up, though, but it won’t be because we can no longer do it. It will be because it’s simply time, meaning Father Time wins again.
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