“For this game you need, above all things, to be in a tranquil frame of mind.” – Harry Vardon
By Ian Hardie
One of the many things that has changed over the years in the game of golf
Is the way that golfers go about preparing for their game – in fact I can’t ever recall seeing what is now a common place activity for golfers around the world – when I was a young golfer
I am of course referring to the tendency for a lot of golfers to have a pre-game caffeine hit of some sort – which usually comes in the form of a cup of coffee or one of the many energy drinks available
Now, if like most golfers around the world, your pre-game routine includes the consumption of a caffeinated beverage of some sort – you are probably sitting there thinking:
“So what, of course I have a coffee or energy drink before I play golf, it gives me energy and stimulates me to play better”
It may well do but my question is – do you know what else it’s doing?
As usual, before I go any further I must point out that what I am about to talk about is most certainly out of my field of expertise – so please read my Disclaimer here before venturing on or even believing a single word I say about this subject
So back to the question at hand – are you sure that pre-game caffeine hit is really helping your golf?
My basic investigation into this subject would suggest that maybe it isn’t really and in actual fact – it could be increasing your golf score
Now, that I really have your attention – let’s take a look at why I’m saying that
Have a good look at the image below – which I must point out that – was forwarded to me so I’m not 100% sure where it came from or whether it is in fact accurate data but it looks fairly accurate to me from what I have read
The chart shows the three times throughout the day – in the early morning, the middle of the day and the early evening – as the usual times that a thing called ‘Cortisol’ is at its peak levels in the human body
What’s this thing called ‘Cortisol’?
According to Wikipedia – ‘Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood glucose. It functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrate’
The key point in all of that when it comes to your pre-game caffeine hit – is that Cortisol is released in response to stress
Any idea what most golfers find the most stressful part of their game of golf?
I’m going to suggest that for almost all golfers around the world – it will be the period of time between getting to the golf course and getting safely past the first hole or two
Which is exactly the same time period where you might be taking in that pre-game caffeine hit – with whatever drink you most commonly have
The bad news about that is that one of the effects that caffeine has – is that it can stress your body and cause a further increase in your cortisol levels – over and above your naturally high levels depending on the time of the day that you play golf
Let’s take a minute to consider that idea a little further and look at the combined effects of a heightened level of cortisol and caffeine in the human body:
Anxiety, depression and mood swings are all direct consequences of elevated cortisol
Not something you really want as you start your game of golf – I’m sure you’ll agree?
Cortisol may actually increase short-term memory for a short time (we are talking 30 minutes or so) but that doesn’t seem much of a benefit for playing golf
More concerning to me when I learnt of it – is that elevated cortisol reduces blood flow and glucose delivery to the brain which when combined with caffeine’s ability to constrict blood flow to the brain – can reduce oxygen availability in the brain by up to 30%
Take some time to think about the massive effect that can have on your golf!
By the way if you want to read more about that – you can do so here
Does all that have you reaching for a bottle of water to drink yet?
Unfortunately, the news gets worse from here……………
If you constantly put your body through this process of ingesting caffeine right at the point where your cortisol levels are already high – some of the symptoms of this highly elevated cortisol are fatigue, excess body fat and the inability to lose body fat – regardless of how good your diet is and the level of exercise you do
These symptoms don’t occur overnight though – it’s a gradual process apparently due to the fact that Cortisol raises the level of glucose in your body and any excess glucose that the body doesn’t use gets stored as body fat
Those are some scary thoughts – aren’t they?
But as I’m a golf teacher – let’s back to the effects of your pre-game caffeine hit on your golf game – take a look at this image:
More specifically, I want you to take a look at two parts on the right hand side of the image that are listed under the words ‘Negative effects’
“Anxiety” and “Reduced control of fine motor movements”
It’s fairly obvious to any golfer that beginning the game in a state of Anxiety – is not going to be a good idea – as you can read from its Wikipedia definition:
‘Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry and uneasiness, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration.’
‘Muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration’ – are certainly not going to help you to start your game of golf well – are they?
I’m going to leave you with two things to consider:
Firstly, if you are a golfer that regularly has a pre-game caffeine hit of some form and after reading this article – you have decided that it might be a good idea – not to do that
I’d like you to do a bit of an experiment that I can hopefully share the result of – with other Golf Habits readers – especially if you regularly play golf around those two main times of the day where your Cortisol is at its peak
Early in the morning or around the middle of the day
Take a few minutes to document your current pre-game caffeine consumption over the past month or two as well as your golf scores over the same period of time
Then for the next month or two I’d like you to record your different pre-game drink consumption and your golf scores – if you notice some sort of change please let me know by sending me a message here
The second thing I want you to consider – especially if you happen to currently or have ever suffered from “The yips” in any form – is the other negative effect of caffeine on that image
“Reduced control of fine motor movements”
That’s something I’m going to take a look at further in “Is that pre-game caffeine hit – really helping your golf – part two”
By the way, if you don’t have a pre-game caffeine hit but you know a golfer who does – please forward this on to them – they may be able to provide just the data I’m looking for which could help many golfers around the world!