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Opinion & Analysis

The hidden element of golf fitness: Nutrition



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 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.



  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.


  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

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…



Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole