I believe nutrition is the single most important factor that most golfers fail to consider when preparing for competition. The topic isn’t talked about much, and if something isn’t talked about, it’s not a priority. Well it should be, so let’s talk about it.
When I recruit a young man I spend a long time talking to him about all aspects of his game. We talk about putting, driving, iron play, etc. We also talk about how he plays, what he thinks about while playing, what usually happens when he plays well and what goes wrong when he plays poorly. When he plays poorly many times he explains the situation like this: The round starts out very well, then about the 14th hole everything begins to unravel. The young man doesn’t really know why, he just knows that he chokes at the end of rounds—usually in tournaments.
The first thing I ask is, “How much do you eat out there?” The answer I usually get is either, “Nothing”, or “I had a pack of crackers during the round.” I hope to God that I don’t hear, “I had a hot dog at the turn.” That one drives me nuts.
I then ask, “Do you know how many calories your body burns during a round of golf when you walk?“
At this point I get either silence or a shrug. They usually have no idea.
Well, for all of you out there, the answer is right around 2000! That’s almost a days worth of calories! I know, right? Surprised?
The reason he finished poorly is pretty obvious to me. He simply ran out of fuel.
Almost every golfer that I’ve ever coached prior to their experience with me operated at what I call a Calorie Deficit. I have discovered that teaching a player to eat may be just as important as teaching them the swing.
Young people are calorie burning machines. I know very few moms who have sons that don’t eat constantly and in great quantities. Yet these same young men go to the course to play or compete and do so with no food in their bag and by the time they have hit balls and played, they will have gone six hours without eating, maybe more. I ask them, “Aside from sleeping do you ever go 6 hours without eating?” Of course not. Yet while doing an athletic activity they starve themselves of the fuel they need to compete at a high level! This makes no sense.
Let’s say you were going on a trip in a car. One of the first things you would ask yourself is, “Do I have enough fuel to get me where I want to go?” The same question needs to be asked prior to a round of golf or even more importantly, a round of tournament golf.
One of the biggest reasons golfers “choke” stems from a lack of food in their belly. Simple as that.
When you lack fuel it not only affects your energy level (blood sugar) but it also affects your ability to make sound decisions. The brain needs fuel just as much as the body in order to operate at an effective level.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying—don’t go and pound down 2000 calories prior to your round. That would be equally disastrous!
My golfers always eat a ton of healthy snacks while on the course. This always comes as a shock to my freshman. Most aren’t used to eating at all. As I tell them, “you’re not eating because you are hungry, you are eating to maintain your optimum performance level. If you wait until you are hungry to eat, it’s too late. Chances are we’ve already lost strokes out there.”
When we compete we eat something every 2 to 3 holes, but never garbage! (hot dogs, hamburgers, candy bars, chips, sodas, etc.) Those items are loaded with fat and will cause your blood sugar to spike and then dive. Eat things that will help you perform like the athlete you are! You want to maintain a consistent blood sugar level. My team eats apples, bananas, nuts (excellent) beef jerky, any dried fruit like raisins, trail mix, and a good energy bar like a Cliff Bar or something.
A few years ago I had a golfer from England named Tom. We discovered he played his best when he ate 6 apples a round. I called him Apple Tom. He would eat an apple every 3 holes. He won a lot of college events and became an All-America.
During your round you will need to consume 2000 calories to match what your body will burn.
This is one of the most important lessons my golfers learn from me their first year. When they go home for the summer and play in their local events, state amateurs or national events I usually get a call after the tournament and hear stories about their successes not failures.
I like happy endings.
Happy 80th Dad!