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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.

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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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

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“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

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The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

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After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

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(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

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The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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