Diet and nutrition are usually discussed in the context of bodybuilding or high-intensity sports, but did you know that it actually has a major impact on performance in golf game? That’s right—what and when you eat can influence your ability to knock in birdies and avoid bogies.
“During a competitive match, golfers can burn upwards of 2,000 calories by spending only four to five hours on the course,” Hix Magazine points out. “Golf is a low-impact sport with brief moments of high intensity during swings. Even so, your body is put through a lot during your time on a course.”
People who aren’t golfers, or who merely watch the sport on TV, don’t understand just how demanding golf is—both physically and mentally. While it might not have the same sort of intensity as a contact sport like football, it still requires much of the same fitness and preparation to be successful. From a nutritional point of view, here are some tips and best practices.
1. It Starts With Hydration
“Drinking water keeps your mind and body working properly and it’s critical for optimal brain function and muscle performance,” golf performance coach David MacKenzie explains. “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, which limits your ability to concentrate and lowers your performance on the course. Being dehydrated by just 2-3% results in 10% lower performance, which in an average round of golf, could be as high as eight shots!”
The hard thing for golfers is to remember to drink enough water. Once you’re in the middle of a round, it’s easy to get distracted and forget about hydration. That’s why MacKenzie and others suggest forming habits. Do the same thing every time and you’ll be more likely to remember. One thing you’ll see the pros do is drink half a bottle of water at every tee box. Since you need at least 6 ounces of water every half hour to stay fully hydrated, this is the perfect time frame.
2. Eat a Solid Breakfast
The meal you eat before a round of golf—likely breakfast—will have a considerable impact on your performance on the course. You should avoid sugary cereals, donuts and greasy things like biscuits and gravy. It’s also best to stay away from sugary drinks like orange juice. Instead, a meal with complex carbs, protein and a healthy amount of fat is best. A veggie omelet or oatmeal will do just fine.
3. Pack Your Own Food
A lot of golfers show up for a round and plan on grabbing some food and snacks in the clubhouse. Sometimes this can work, but you shouldn’t count on it. Many clubhouses only have vending machine snacks like chips and candy, which isn’t going to do you much good. You’re better off packing your own fresh produce and snacks in a little cooler.
4. Post-Round Nutrition
Your nutritional needs don’t end with the conclusion of the round. In fact, Dr. Graeme Close, a sports nutrition expert who has worked with Europe’s Ryder Cup stars, believes what you eat after a round plays a huge role in how you perform in the long run.
“Now is the key time to refuel and let your body repair,” Dr. Close says. “It needs high-quality protein and carbohydrates, plus lots of nutrients from vegetables—not a burger and chips! Salmon, sweet potato and steamed vegetables are perfect, or a chicken wrap and salad or cottage pie would also do the job.”
The Modern Day Golfer
Compare the physique of some of the top golfers over the last 10 years—guys like Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Rory Mcllroy—and it’s clear that most of today’s successful golfers care for their bodies in ways that previous generations of golfers didn’t. In fact, today’s golfers would prefer to be called athletes.
The thing about staying physically fit and competitive is that it requires more than hitting the gym and practicing your swing. To build muscle, shed fat and stay energized for grueling five-hour rounds, nutrition isn’t something you can overlook. Whether you’re an amateur trying to break 100 or a professional earning millions, nutrition is an important piece of the equation for the modern golfer. Will you take it seriously?