By J. Ron Eaker, M.D.

April in Augusta means one thing…pollen!  But there is also a little sporting event that seems to capture the hearts and minds of the known universe, so in homage to The Masters, here is how to both play and watch golf in a healthy fashion. Like anyone wants to do that!

Like many things, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of the muscular, fit, healthy appearing golfer.  Compare his physique to those pros of the past (i.e. a young and portly Jack Nicklaus) and you can see a drastic difference in the current attention to fitness.  Of course, his entourage of personal trainers, cooks, massage therapists, accountants and chiropractors makes his health pursuit a bit easier, but what about the average duffer?  What can the weekend warrior and the weekend warrior watcher do to improve their health while pounding the dimpled orb?

First and perhaps foremost, walk.  Whenever you go out to play eighteen, shun the golf cart like leprosy on a prophet.  Walking is one of the greatest tools for achieving weight control, a healthy cardiovascular system and envious calves.  Most golf courses have varying terrain, so walking up, over, and around uses a variety of muscles and keeps you engaged.  The fact that the group behind you is always hitting into your playing space also keeps you moving at a fairly steady pace, which again improves your fitness.  Using electric golf carts can also be a hazard to your health as more people are injured in cart accidents every year than in rabid squirrel attacks. My apologies, Club Car.

In an ideal world, you should carry your clubs but this is about as likely as John Daly doing a Calvin Klein underwear commercial.  Using a pull cart actually can be healthy as going up some hills requires extra exertion, and it really is all about being as active as possible.  Try to avoid the Rodney Dangerfield and Caddyshack version of the golf bag as having deli meat and a beer tap on the tee is counterproductive.

Spectators can also benefit by moving on a regular basis as they jostle for autographs and selfies with their plaid panted idols.  I realize it is sacrosanct, especially at tournaments like The Masters, to plop your chair down like Columbus claiming the new world around the sixteenth green and then sit for 2 hours awaiting the first golfer, but it would behoove you to move around as much as you can to prevent blood clots in your legs and moss growing on your north side.  Those fans who travel the course from stem to stern not only benefit from the movement  but also get a first hand tour of some quality score boards.  If you insist on staking your claim and staying in one spot for 10 hours, at least get up and stretch periodically.  This can be a bit challenging as most settings put you in a virtual sardine can of closeness, but if you can walk in circles around your chair for five minutes each hour you will not only feel better, but a security guard will likely ask you questions like, “Do you know what year it is? and “Who is the President?”

By necessity, both golfers and spectators must consume food on the course.  This is another area in which healthy choices can markedly improve ones countenance and waist circumference.  Fans have the advantage here as they have a variety of concession facilities selling everything from chicken biscuits to Georgia Peach ice cream sandwiches.  Unfortunately, most golf course concessions do not appear on your basic “Keto” diet list but you can still make healthy picks.  We in the bariatrics business like to call this making the best of bad choices.  For example, an egg salad sandwich and a bag of peanuts is both filling and not massively unhealthy.  Just don’t add the beer and muffin chaser.  Golfers are usually much more selective as they will often carry their own nutrition, often consisting of an energy bar or drink.  Bubba Watson, former Masters champion, was quoted as saying, “I always have four sandwiches in my bag, two turkey and cheese and two peanut butter and jelly. No real reason except that I like them.”  Good job Bubba but I wonder how he keeps the PB&J from getting squished?

One of the greatest health benefits of playing and watching golf is the mental relaxation and stress relief it affords.  That is assuming you are not prone to throwing clubs or yelling at trees that inexplicably get in the way of your ball. Spending a day outdoors can be refreshing and renewing for your mind so see this  time on the course as nature’s psychotherapy session.  We all know that a healthy mind is a key to a healthy body so embrace the fresh air, triple bogeys and sand traps as tools to help you reach a positive mental state.

And if that doesn’t work, have a beer at the 19th hole!

This article appears in the April 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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