How much impact does your fluid intake have on golf performance?
Probably a lot more than you think!
Hydration is one of those areas that golfers often overlook but one that can potentially destroy a round! In a number of athletic populations dehydration has been shown to reduce cognitive function (Grandjean & Grandjean, 2007; Wittbrodt & Millard-Stafford, 2018) – a pretty important factor that golfers need optimized out on the course!
In this blog we present recommendations based on research evidence and three goals to help optimize your hydration strategy and maintain performance on the course.
Golfers often spend long periods of time outside playing or practicing which may be repeated over consecutive days, potentially in warm climates, and it is also now common to find golfers training at higher intensities in the gym. These factors are all likely to cause the golfer to experience fluid losses which might lead to dehydration. In golf specific research Magee, Gallagher, and McCormack (2017), found that over 40% of male collegiate golfers were in a dehydrated state pre-competition.
Furthermore, results from another study showed that mild dehydration (loss of 1.5% of body mass) resulted in:
Reduced shot distance
Impaired judgement of shot distance compared to when golfers were well hydrated
(Smith, Newell, & Baker, 2012)
It is well known, from sports science research, that sweating rate and sweat electrolyte concentrations (i.e., the amount of minerals in the sweat that help deliver fluids to the cells that need them, e.g., sodium and chloride among others) can vary widely within and among individuals (Barnes et al., 2019), therefore, during-exercise fluid recommendations should be based on individual sweat losses for the specific conditions (i.e., during golf or gym-based sessions).
While this may sound vague, what it does point to is that tried and tested strategies are key for each individual and getting initial advice from your coach, and further advice from a qualified sports nutritionist is important to optimize an untapped area in your game.
Check out the graphic below which shows the fluid needs for varying conditions when you are out on the course:
Despite a distinct lack of golf-specific hydration research, we can draw on research from sports science and apply it to golf to provide recommendations. To prevent dehydration, the golfer should focus on three acute occasions outside of their normal drinking habits throughout the day:
Post-exercise occasions (where exercise = golf or S&C)
The goals for the golfer should therefore be:
Goal 1: To start exercise in a euhydrated (well hydrated) state:
Sawka et al. (2007) recommend consuming a fluid volume of 5-7 ml/kg of body mass at least 4 hours prior to the exercise start and if no urine is produced or the urine is dark in color a further 3-5 ml/kg of body mass consumed approximately 2 hours prior to the start.
So, a 75kg golfer should drink 375-525ml 4 hours prior to exercise
A further 225-375ml 2 hours prior if needed.
We hear you – what if you have an early tee time?! Don’t get up just to have a drink, make sure that you have a drink as soon as possible after waking and check your urine color again an hour (or two, where there’s time) before your tee time. If the urine still isn’t a light straw color drink some more, as per the advice above.
Goal 2: To limit or prevent dehydration during exercise (i.e., golf or S&C sessions):
A simple way to monitor hydration status during exercise is again through urine color – it should be a light straw color (i.e., not yellow or darker).
Specifics: Using your body mass is a great way to get to the specific detail you need to create an optimized strategy. This may not be what everyone wants to do but for those who do try out this tip. During exercise, athletes – in this case golfers, should drink 1 L of fluid for every 1 kg of body mass they are losing and add sodium to beverages to help replace losses and improve fluid retention (Sawka et al., 2007). The optimal beverage for the golfer will vary based on the specific conditions in which they are consuming it, their typical sweat rate, the acute individual fluid and electrolyte losses, their nutritional requirements (carbohydrate and / or protein) together with planned food consumption, and their personal beverage preferences (taste and temperature) (Baker & Jeukendrup, 2014).
It may take a number of gym sessions or rounds on the course in different conditions to really optimize your strategy, but it can be time invested wisely if it means the difference between making / missing the cut, or winning / losing a tournament.
Goal 3: To replace fluid and electrolyte losses following exercise:
Post-exercise fluid recommendations include replacing any fluid and electrolyte losses that were not replaced during the round or in the gym. The main goal here is to ensure re-hydration is complete before the next exercise session.
Using the same method of measuring body mass before and after exercise, recommendations are to consume 1.5 L of fluid for every 1 kg of body mass loss (Sawka et al., 2007). This equates to around 1 fluid pint for every 1 lb lost.
Once again, urine color can also be used for a simple guide as to how hydrated the golfer is.
Due to the nature of golf where subsequent bouts of practice or rounds can occur in the same day and often on consecutive days, the use of a hydration strategy (or lack of!) can have chronic consequences on performance. It is therefore important for golfers to monitor hydration and have tested strategies in place for the conditions they face.
Fluid choices for on-course and S&C sessions should consider the volume of fluid needed to be consumed, the replacement of sweat-related sodium losses in warm and humid conditions, the CHO and protein needs of the golfer and associated food choices, and the personal preferences of flavour and temperature.
As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider and potentially it could seem complicated or overwhelming to get an effective strategy in place. If you take nothing else away, remember to use urine color (or pre and post weight) as a monitoring process and consume enough fluids to start, remain and finish in a hydrated state.
For further information on the five areas of focus to optimize the golfer
check out this blog and our infographic.
Visit your app store to download AMI Sports: Golf and start monitoring today.
Available on iOS now, coming soon to Android!
Get in touch with any of the authors to find out about the support they can offer
(face-to-face and online sports science and strength and conditioning support is available).
Baker, L. B., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). Optimal composition of fluid-replacement beverages. Comprehensive Physiology, 4(2), 575–620. https://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c130014
Grandjean, A. C., & Grandjean, N. R. (2007). Dehydration and cognitive performance. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(S5), 549S-554S.
Magee, P. J., Gallagher, A. M., & McCormack, J. M. (2017). High prevalence of dehydration and inadequate nutritional knowledge among university and club level athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 27(2), 158–168. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2016-0053
Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 377–390. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597
Smith, M. F., Newell, A. J., & Baker, M. R. (2012). Effect of acute mild dehydration on cognitive-motor performance in golf. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(11), 3075–3080.
Wittbrodt, M. T., & Millard-Stafford, M. (2018). Dehydration Impairs Cognitive Performance: A Meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 50(11), 2360–2368. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001682
Dr Ben Langdown is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at The Open University and has published various journal papers in the area of golf and sports science. Specifically, Ben's research focuses on athlete monitoring, warm-up protocols, and training interventions in the sport of golf. Ben is also a Strength and Conditioning Coach for England Golf and over the past 15 years has provided biomechanics and S&C support to golfers from amateurs through to European (Men’s and Ladies’) Tours and a European Senior Tour Season Champion. Ben has presented at 4 World Golf Fitness Summits and the 2018 World Scientific Congress of Golf, where he also acted as an invited review panel member supporting education for >150 academics/coaches. He has delivered various invited keynote workshops with international organisations, including England Golf, The PGAs of GB&I, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovakia with all adopting his applied approaches. Most recently, Ben has developed the AMI Sports: Golf athlete monitoring app allowing further insight into golfers’ practice, tournaments, training and daily wellbeing.
Tim Roberts is the Director of Science + Innovation at Therabody and the Co-Founder of Scientific Athlete. At Therabody, Tim specializes in the development and execution of effective science and innovation strategies that translate to improved business functions. Prior to this role, Tim was Senior Sports Scientist with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and was based at their laboratory at IMG Academy (2011-2020). He continues to work with golfers at every level in both lab and field settings, whilst collaborating with several international golf organisations. Furthermore, Tim works with professional golfers providing sports science, nutrition, and strength and conditioning support.
Tim has presented two invited presentations at World Golf Fitness Summits and at the inaugural Golf and Health Symposium in 2018. These presentations covered the application of research into nutrition and hydration, sport science methodology and athlete monitoring in golf
In addition to this work in golf he has led the development and execution of both research and applied strategies for athlete monitoring in several other sports including with the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, and elite basketball, soccer, and baseball organisations.
Dr. Alex Ehlert is an Assistant Professor of Exercise Science at North Carolina Wesleyan College. He is a former competitive golfer that competed at the NCAA Division I level. During his time as a competitive golfer, Alex recognized the gap between the available sport science information and how it was being applied in practice by golfers and golf coaches. This spurred his interest in 1) conducting research on sport science for golf and 2) disseminating quality information to golfers and golf coaches. He has published several research articles related to the associations between various physical characteristics and golf clubhead speed and the effects of warm-ups and strength & conditioning programs on golf performance. These are areas that Alex will continue to study moving forward. Alex has also conducted research within other areas of exercise and sport science. Some notable topics include fitness testing for soccer/football goalkeepers, the role of psychological factors on gastrointestinal symptoms in endurance athletes, and the effects of caffeine mouth rinsing on exercise performance. In addition to future research with golf, Alex will soon be conducting research on field-based methods for testing and monitoring the physical characteristics of team sport athletes. Beyond research, Alex has practical experience working with competitive golfers, team sport athletes, and clinical populations as a sport scientist and exercise physiologist. He intends to continue providing sport science support to golfers and other athletes for the foreseeable future, in addition to his role as an assistant professor.