There are a couple of crafty elderly guys at the local club who pack flasks into their cart all year round. Whisky? Bourbon? Gin? No, the secret weapon of choice is coffee.
In the hot summer months these golfing legends take it as “iced” coffee — carefully brewed and chilled. And, in winter, they pour steaming hot coffee and share it throughout the round. In retrospect, these two old dudes collect a lot of loot in comparison to others — never seen them flag or come off the course early. They are competitive to the last hole. What’s their secret? Is it the “steady-as-he-goes” golf or is it that magical substance caffeine?
The most talked about recent scientific studies comes to us care of Auburn University, Alabama, where a 36-hole tournament was used to test theories about the performance-enhancing properties of coffee on golf results. The findings are impressive and were reported upon by the popular golf media. Those guys obviously know something that the rest of us were not entirely convinced about.
In the interests of science and in preparation for this article, I spent several weeks consuming a coffee about an hour before playing, something I would not usually do. My greatest fear was getting the shakes on my usually steady, soft-hand putting stroke. But alas, the caffeine did nothing more than give me a boost at the 16th to 18th point, where generally the next meal and drink were being considered more than the next golf shot.
In addition to this home-spun snippet of anecdotal research, there is some additional convincing evidence to consider.
The impact of coffee on physical endurance
The World Anti-Doping Agency removed caffeine from its banned substances list, since athletes brew and drink coffee. Cyclist Chris Hoy, for example, carts his coffee machine to every event. Or else, athletes pop caffeine pills or chew caffeine-laced gum.
While there is a multitude of findings on the benefits, the evidence tends to fall on the side of claiming that quantities of caffeine, consumed through coffee or other means, enhances endurance by blocking those fatigue inhibitors. Given that golf is one of the longest games played, these findings are of particular interest to all golfers.
The typical golfer will slump just after the turn. Research on the amateur game indicates that somewhere between the 12th and 15th, shots are lost due to fatigue and loss of concentration. A coffee — iced or hot — an hour before the game (and maybe at the turn) should produce a more alert and focused back nine. Research also claims that a coffee can help manage pain and improve circulation, thus further fueling our physical capacity during the round.
Mental benefits of coffee
Good quality coffee is good for the brain. It’s a stimulant that tickles the central nervous system and produces a more attentive set of receptors. One study even claims that regular coffee drinkers reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by up to 60 percent.
Essentially, the properties of this drink stave off cognitive decline in the longer term by giving the brain and central nervous system daily stimulation. Watch Day as he prepares for each and every shot. He identifies the target and narrows his eyes as he visualizes the shot, remaining solely and utterly focused on the shot, regardless of what is happening around him. It looks easy enough, but this is mentally tiring to do each and every time and demonstrates the need for cognitive discipline.
Tired brains do not function this way. While we can only hope to develop some of Day’s on-course focus, a little help would go a long way. That cup of coffee rather than a short-lived soda is the drink with brain benefits.
Are all coffees created equal?
Like food and golfers, not all coffees are born equal. The two ageing golfers mentioned at the start don’t brew up any old concoction. No bitter, over-cooked, drip filter or instant rubbish for them. In fact, when pushed for details they happily and enthusiastically reveal their stealthy weapon; organic, locally roasted (and sustainable) coffee beans, ground and delivered to order and then pushed through a French press or else a proper espresso machine.
These guys are serious about their stimulants! It’s not rocket science after all — it’s easy and quick to do. However, don’t pin any hopes on a cup of instant, granulated coffee laced with cream and sugar making any impact. The research reminds that caffeine is best administered by freshly roasted whole beans that are ground, brewed and consumed as soon as possible. Why else would Chris Hoy cart his grinder and espresso machine all over the world?
Between science and those wise men, there lies some agreement that partaking in a cup of good quality coffee prior to or during your round has merit. Consistent physical performance and sustained mental focus appear to be the major benefits. Coffee sure beats the “boom and bust” effect of soda or sugary sports drinks on the metabolism.
— N. Incoll