Ever found yourself praying that the halfway hut is open, despite only being on the third hole? How many times have you struggled up the 18th with legs that feel like you’ve run a marathon? The reason is simple: a round of golf can burn as many as 2,000 calories. If you’re not eating the right things, at the right times, your performance will suffer.
Luckily, Dr Graeme Close is here to help. He’s an expert in Physiology and Sports Nutrition and has worked with England Rugby, British Cycling and British Rowing.
He was also the man that ensured Europe’s Ryder Cup stars were fuelled and ready. We asked him for the best way to ensure you reach the 18th green feeling fresh and energised.
How important is nutrition in golf?
A big thing when we get tired is poor decision making. It only takes one bad decision to ruin the card and separate winners from also-rans. It also affects recovery and how we play and feel in the following days.
Does your role go beyond keeping players energised for 18 holes?
Absolutely. The first thing I always do is promote health. Why carry 10kg of surplus fat around a golf course for five hours when you really don’t have to?
How do you keep them healthy off course?
Most of the time golfers don’t need high carb diets. We focus on quality vegetables as a huge part of the diet over starchy carbohydrates as well as educating players as to what is a portion. Most people simply overeat.
How did you cope with the extra demands of the Ryder Cup?
The 36-hole issue was something that needed extra thought. Nutrition was tweaked in the days leading up to it and it became more important than ever to have structured routine during the rounds. We wanted food that was easily digestible, enjoyable and would tick the key boxes of energy and recovery. Advice was given as to what to order in the hotels and special snacks and drinks were provided such as Biltong, trail mix, recovery drinks and extras such as Cherry Active, which has been shown to improve sleep and reduce muscle soreness.
You criticised Team USA for eating packet sandwiches…
That was a little bit tongue-in-cheek as it was hard to see what was in them. But I was surprised to see packet sandwiches. It’s a step up from not eating anything, but I doubt their quality and quantity of protein would have been correct. I’m a massive believer in quality produce and that’s why I go as far as suggesting my golfers buy their meat from top quality farms.
What is your key tip for amateurs?
Be prepared. Don’t rely on being able to buy quality produce on the day; many clubs only offer chocolate bars for snacks, which won’t help your performance. Plan ahead and bring your snacks with you. You should be drinking regularly throughout the round and I always advise adding electrolytes to this drink, especially on a hot day.
Your perfect round… on a plate
Breakfast – A bowl of muesli, three-egg omelette, glass of water and a banana
We want carbohydrates for energy and protein so you feel full. Finish breakfast at least two hours before your tee time so your body has time to digest it.
Pre-round – Water and a banana
By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, meaning your performance will already be suffering. Sip water regularly to avoid falling into this common trap.
Hole 4 – Cereal bar
A small top-up of carbs early in your round will prevent your body eating into its reserve energy levels which would leave you hungry and weak later in the round.
Hole 8 – Chicken roll
It’s hard, but resist the bacon sandwich at the halfway house. Chicken is less processed than bacon and is a higher quality protein, which makes it easier to digest. A wholemeal roll will add quality carbs and avoid the spike-and-crash you can get with white bread.
Hole 12 – Banana and nuts/seeds
Bananas release energy quickly, making them perfect for a pick-me-up to see you down the final stretch. If you’re feeling peckish, have a handful of nuts and seeds.
Throughout your round
Sip water throughout your round, but don’t force it down. I ask my pros to make it part of their routine by having a sip as they walk from the green to the next tee.
Now is the key time to refuel and let your body repair. It needs high quality protein and carbohydrates, plus lots of nutrients from vegetables – not a burger and chips! Salmon, sweet potato and steamed veg is perfect, or a chicken wrap and salad or cottage pie would also do the job.