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Opinion & Analysis

The hidden element of golf fitness: Nutrition

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If I were to utilize every beneficial golf fitness program that I’ve read over the years, I would:

  1. Be extraordinarily carved and buff
  2. Have dedicated 23 of 24 hours of each day to golf fitness

An element of golf fitness that at times gets overlooked is one that we’ve all practiced to some degree since we came into this world: nutrition. It’s borderline hysterical that the recent announcement of the demise of Hostess and its cupcakes, wagon wheels and Twinkies generated more sorrow than the passing of great writers and community figures. That is a sad commentary on the current state of nutrition in the US.

Understand that pre-round and pre-tournament fitness are vital to playing consistent golf. However, fitness usually doesn’t amount to a hill of frijoles unless supported by proper pre-round, in-round and post-round fortification. Eat a solid pre-round meal, perhaps one with a bit of pasta or eggs for protein. Pack two bottles of water and start drinking it on the first tee. Water in your mouth and in your system combats dry-mouth, brought on by self-imposed nerves (remember that only you can make you nervous, no one else has that power.)

Andrea Furst wrote a judicious piece on the challenge of a routine change for the Ladies European Tour website. Dr. Furst, the founding director of Mental Notes Consulting, focuses on the psychological needs of sports people and athletes. Although her article does not focus specifically on nutrition, the principle point can be applied to the strenuous exercise of nutrition upgrade.

Save the water bottles as you empty them, and refill them from on-course coolers when you have an opportunity. Eliminate a few trinkets from your bag that you don’t need and pack some healthful snacks that you will eat. Like the one-iron, if you can’t hit it, don’t carry it. Hit those snacks on Nos. 4, 7, 10 and 13 holes. If you need a pick-me-up late in the round, munch a bit on the penultimate tee, too. I know that adults all love a beer and a hot dog; save them for post-round celebrations or blah-blah sessions. They taste better then, because you aren’t in a rush.

NuunA wonderful document on total nutrition was assembled by Dr. Greg Wells and Denis Collier for the Royal Canadian Golf Association. In it, the two gentlemen consider all aspects of the link and impact between fitness and nutrition, the importance of proteins and glycogen, the spacing of meals, snacks and timing of hydration.

What beneficial items might you consume during your travels around the course? Health professionals, touring professionals and working folks have various suggestions, the majority of which will contribute to a positive and healthful 18 holes. For snacking, trail mix and whole fruit during the first third of the round, a nutritious sandwich (not a burger on a white-bread bun!) in the middle and something with carbohydrates during the final six holes of the round.

With no scientific backing whatsoever, I’m going to make a behavioral statement that I believe seals the deal on snacking: it slows you down. Not so much that you delay play, but just enough to settle the rhythm and give pause during the round. Rushing is a hindrance to proper execution and the brief moratorium allows the intellect to catch up to the emotion.

In 2013, at age 47, I’m going to make a specific effort to consider what I’m putting into my body three to four hours before a round or practice session. I also plan to eliminate rain gear and umbrella on sunny days (I’m a walker, not a rider) and replace them with proper snack bags of trail mix, sandwiches and fruit — I might even mark them up with Sharpie to remind me of the proper order of ingestion. I’ll report back as the season progresses to let you know how the routine has helped or hindered my game. For now, here are the five snacks you’ll find in my bag during the season:

1. Do-it-myself trail mix (a bit of chocolate, almonds, dried fruit, sunflower seeds and granola)
2. A banana (probably eat this first, so I don’t mush it up and stink up the bag!)
3. An energy bar that is actually good for me (I like Clif Bars)
4. A peanut butter sandwich on wheat (tons of protein and still tastes great mushy);
5. Nuun tablets to add electrolytes to water and a little flavor to the chosen fluid

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Ronald Montesano

    Feb 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks to both responders. Doreen is a professional in the field of diet and nutrition, so her words are golf to me. Her “shanked ball” comment is priceless; her golfing husband will be proud of her.

    Troy, you are so correct when speaking from experience. Before you need it, drink/eat it. You’ll never “need” it.

  2. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Great post Ronald,

    Nutrition is overlooked by 99% of golfers I see. We’re out there walking for over 4 hours so it’s vital that we keep our body going strong. This is especially true in hot and humid conditions which are experiencing here in Australia at present. Once the body gets tired it then effects our golf swing which of course will result in poor shots.

    I always drink plenty of water, eat fruit and as you say an energy bar is a great addition.

    Cheers

  3. Doreen

    Jan 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I agree that nutrition and hydration are often overlooked In the sport of golf. The truth is that you can’t excel at your game if your feeling sluggish and dehydrated. So, yes, pack the water bottles and use the electrolytes, especially if its hot and humid. As for the snacks, true, they can be a hindrance, but less so than a shanked ball that you have to search for in the woods. Snacks serve to keep your blood sugar stable and your concentration at an optimal level. Your plan for the coming golf season is sound-I’ll be interested in the results.

  4. NL

    Jan 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Great points on nutrition/hydration. A related study was released November 2012 regarding the importance of hydration for golfers. “Effect of Acute Mild Dehydration on Cognitive-Motor Performance in Golf”. (Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2012 – Volume 26 – Issue 11 – p 3075–3080).

    To make a long story short, they demonstrated that even mildly dehydrated golfers significantly impaired motor performance in their small sample of subjects, 7 low handicappers.

    So the moral of the story is if you’re going to be significantly impaired on the golf course at least enjoy it by having a few beers.

  5. Ronald Montesano

    Jan 14, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    PRM, Thanks for the love! I’m the first guy to admit that the hot dog, beer and other treats are tempting. If I can resist them until the 19th hole, I’m pretty confident that I’ll have played a solid round and will have earned them. As coaches tell their players, by the time you realize that you need water, you’re already a bit dehydrated. Hydrate before you think you need it.

  6. PRM

    Jan 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Great stuff! I agree that nutrition is overlooked and by keeping up with it, your game will benefit.

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Opinion & Analysis

A breakdown of NCAA golf’s 2018 early-signing period

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With the early-signing period for college golf ending about a week ago, I wanted to examine the numbers and see how they compared to last years. As you may remember, I reported last year that the average National Junior Golf Score Board (NJGS) ranking for a player that signed at a Division One Institution was 365. Likewise, the average NJGS for Power 5 Conference School was 114, while 52 percent of signees where from in-state. This year during the early signing period there were 173 players who signed at D1 schools. Of these the average NJGS for all division one signees was 262.6. The average for the Power 5 Conference signees was 113.76 and again 51 percent of players signed from in-state.

An important question is “what do we know about the 263-ranked player in NJGS (the average rank for D1)?” At the end of the signing period, this player was Ben Woodruff. The native of Huntersille, NC signed to play in-state for the University of North Carolina Charlotte. According to NJGS, Ben played 9 events with one top-5 finish, an overall rank of 507 and a scoring differential of .35. Historically, we see that the average Division One player has a scoring differential very close to .5 or better.

For the second consecutive year, the number one player chose a non-power 5 Conference school; Ben Wong decided to play his college golf for Coach Enloe at Southern Methodist University (SMU), located in Dallas, Texas. This means, Wong a native of Spring, Texas (a northern suburb of Houston) will be playing college golf about 3 hours north. He will also be joined by NJGS second-ranked player Noah Goodwin, giving SMU a formidable pair of recruits! Florida, Louisiana State University, Pepperdine, North Carolina and Texas also all nabbed two players each from the top 25 in their class, while UCLA grabbed three!

Among the most interesting trends in recruiting is the preference for college coaches to recruit “in-state” players. Over the past two years, the number of “in-state” signees have remained about 50 percent. This number, in my opinion, is based largely on limited recruiting budgets; less than 20 percent of schools have major recruiting budgets. Instead many coaches rely on recruiting budgets of a couple thousand dollars, which is not going to “travel” well.

It is also interesting to note that of the signees for Division I listed on NJGS, only 24 of 197 players where international. This means that international players make up 12 percent of the signees. This number is steady from the previous data collect. Of these players, Wake Forest signed players ranked 305 ad 702 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), while UAB signed a player ranked 2476, Iowa State a player ranked 1098, UTEP a player ranked 2132 (also 325 in NJGS), Western Carolina a player ranked 3699, Stanford a player ranked 208, Arizona a player ranked 141, Colorado a player ranked 754 and 1050, Louisiana Monroe a player ranked 1524, Washington State a player ranked 3251, Northwestern a player ranked 332, Oregon a player ranked 527 and 2229 (also 291 in NJGS), VCU a player ranked 3216 (also 168 in NJGS) and George Washington a player ranked 2851 (also 276 in NJGS). The average WARG for these players is 1,558.5 (please note these represent their current WAGR rankings).

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Podcasts

Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole

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In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.

Click here to listen on iTunes!

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club

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Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s temp the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a descent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

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19th Hole

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