What provides you with the best chance of getting around a golf course in the fewest number of strokes - a bag full of the latest technology, or one stuffed with fluids and healthy snacks?
For over a decade the golf world has become obsessed with technology. We have balls that fly further but land softer, and clubs designed to maximize distance and accuracy. Computer technology has provided every level of golfer with the ability to gather a plethora of various stats which even touring pros need explained to them.
There has also been a surge in the number of golfers hitting the gym and eating healthier in order to increase their levels of performance, but an objective examination should conclude that most golfers, especially the average player, pays much more attention to the clubs in their bag, than the fuel in their bodies.
Now, back to the original question. Which factor has the greatest influence on performance - technology or nutrition? You don’t actually have to decide, but it’s my hope that after reading these ten guidelines pertaining to golf nutrition, you will recognize that while the latest technology will certainly help your game, it cannot be fully utilized without properly fueling your body.
Then again, maybe this isn’t even a fair question. Is it possible that implementing both factors are required to play your best golf?
I’ll let you decide.
10. Mental Advantage
Whether you are a competitive golfer, or simply play recreationally, knowing that you have prepared yourself nutritionally before, during and even after a round will enhance your confidence. If you want to perform, you must find each and every opportunity to boost your confidence, and knowing that your body is fueled and ready to perform creates an internal expectation, and anticipation, of positive performance. For those who are competing in tournament play, being able to look at your competitors and know that you have prepared yourself better than them creates an expectation that you should defeat them, and therefore will, because you have “more gas in the tank”. While this may seem a little far-fetched to some, it shouldn’t. They are mentalities such as these which create golfers who perform at the highest level of which they are capable.
The average round of golf takes close to four hours, and a golfer will walk approximately 9000 metres. While many have argued that golf does not provide you with much exercise, this is only true if you make a habit of taking a cart. Spending four hours walking and swinging clubs will expend energy, and if you haven’t provided your body with adequate fuel, your performance will fade coming down the stretch. To combat this, it is recommended that golfers consume a healthy amount of carbohydrates. The body uses carbohydrates for energy, and while our bodies will store this energy for use when needed, these stores are not adequate for prolonged periods of physical activity, like that of a round of golf. Adequate carbohydrate intake helps combat this. Examples of healthy carbohydrates include milk, lentils, beans, fruit, potatoes, whole grains, and popcorn.
Protein assists in muscle function and recovery, and thus ingesting proteins is very beneficial to performance out on the course. Healthy options include, chicken, turkey, lean ground beef, soy foods, nuts and seeds. Along with the latter options, some vegetarian options include peanut butter, quinoa, low-fat cottage cheese, beans, and non-fat greek yogurt.
7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This is especially important on hot days. We often hear that it is important to drink water when exercising, but we don’t always understand why it is so crucial for performance and general health. While exercising and sweating, our bodies expend energy which cause us to lose weight. Any loss of weight will cause our heart rate to increase. As the heart rate increases, so too does the amount of energy we expend. Now, this principle is used in helping people lose excess weight, but when it comes to performance on the golf course, an increase in heart rate is going to cause you to become fatigued and hinder performance. While each individual’s body and genetic makeup is different, a good general guideline is to consume approximately 100 mL per hole when on the course.
6. Fuel Up
In order to ensure that your body has enough time to digest a good meal prior to exercise, and adequately store away the energy that you will require for your round, it is recommended that you have a good meal 3-4 hours prior to your round, and then a good snack approximately one hour prior to teeing off. Your pre-round meals and snacks should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat and fibre to prevent against gastric discomfort out on the course. It is also recommended that you eat foods that you have found your body respond favourably to in the past. If you have an early morning tee time, make sure you eat properly the night before and wake up in time to have a well-balanced breakfast.
5. Stay Fueled
As you play your round you want to make sure that you are constantly replacing the energy that is being used during your round, as well as the water that your body is losing due to sweat. The Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA) encourages its elite players to consume 30-35 grams of healthy carbohydrates per hour when on the course, and as mentioned previously around 100mL of water per hole played. This can be a fine balance because you want to ensure that you are replacing energy and fluids that you are expending, but you also want to make sure that you don’t consume too much and are left feeling full or bloated. Snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, whole wheat crackers and bananas are terrific snacks that are easy to transport around the golf course. Another great option is Gatorade. Tests have shown that it has the correct mix of fluids and carbohydrates to effectively refuel during competition, for they provide 5-8g of carbohydrates per 100mL.
It is important to eat a well-balanced meal as soon as is reasonable after exercise. As mentioned, during the course of a round your body is using up carbohydrate energy stores, and muscles are being used. Your post round meal must restock carbohydrate stores, but also provide sufficient amounts of protein to enable effective muscle recovery. It is said to eat as soon as possible following exercise since the window of time whereby the body’s ability to repair itself begins to diminish following exercise. Don’t wait and miss this window of opportunity.
3. What to Stay Avoid
Unfortunately, many of the foods that are made available for consumption on beverage carts and in clubhouses will not assist your performance out on the course. You want to stay away from foods which are high in fat, sodium and sugars. Soda, hot dogs and chocolate bars will give you bursts of energy, but they are often accompanied by a “crash” soon after. You need to ensure that you have provided yourself with the correct fuel to allow yourself to finish your round strong.
2. Create a Routine
If you are serious about improving your performance on the course, and doing so with proper nutrition, it is important to plan ahead and create a routine that you become accustomed to. You won’t be successful if you wake up the day of your round and then go to the fridge and grab whatever you can find. To do this correctly, you need to plan ahead and create a meal plan that is right for you. Sticking to a plan will enhance confidence in your game as you know you have prepared yourself to perform at the highest level possible.
1. Keep It Simple
If you are new to this whole golf nutrition thing, don’t try to do too much all at once. Start off by making healthy food choices before, during and after your round, and over time seek to find a dietary game plan that works for you. Trying to apply too many of these guidelines at once could actually hinder performance out on the course. Your focus should be on the round you are playing, and being overly focused on ensuring that you are eating when you should eat, and drinking when you should drink could become a mentally exhausting distraction. Start slow, and over time develop healthy habits which become second nature, similar to that of a preshot routine. Over time you should find engaging in positive nutritional practices simply becomes part of what you do to prepare for a round, and while you are out on the course. Getting into these habits will not only help your game, but improve your overall health in the process. Ideally, these guidelines will lead to healthier eating as a whole. Understanding what your body needs and why it needs it helps to keep ourselves accountable to make those wise food choices.
For those interested in a more in-depth examination of nutrition in golf, I encourage you to take a look at the following resource generated by Golf Canada for their elite players:
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.
Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.