As  we find ourselves in the midst of a drought, with temperatures and humidity soaring, I thought now is as good a time as any to discuss the importance of on course hydration and how being in a dehydrated state can impair your golf.

Let us start with the basics. The body consists of 25% solid matter and 75% water. Furthermore, the brain is made up of 85% water. Based on these facts alone, nobody can deny that water plays a huge role in optimal performance on the course, and in day to day functioning in general, especially in summer where we lose fluids at a higher rate than normal due to sweating.

What is dehydration:
Dehydration occurs when you are losing fluids faster than you are replacing them. On a hot, humid day, your body loses fluids in the form of sweat. Sweating is an attempt to cool the body when your core temperature is raised. Obviously, with this fluid being lost, we need to replenish the stores.

So just how much fluid needs to be lost to put you in a dehydrated state? According to Smith et al. 2012, a loss in body mass of less than 3% qualifies as being mildly dehydrated. So if you are a person weighing 80 kilograms, you could lose 2-3 kilograms on course, purely through water loss, assuming of course that you aren’t consuming any water throughout.

Influence on performance:
Being dehydrated can reduce your performance considerably on course if you are not careful. So let us break it down. As previously mentioned, your brain is 85% water, so a loss in fluids will impact you brain functioning in some way. Smith et al. 2012 found mild dehydration impaired cognitive performance, reflected as errors in judgement with regards to distance.  Secondly, it significantly reduced motor performance, expressed as shot distance. Shot distance decreased from an average of 128.6m to 114.6m when in a state of dehydration.

I don’t know about you but an average of 12m is pretty significant, especially if you have to carry a hazard. Lastly, the same study found you less likely to hit a straight shot, an average distance of nearly 4m off target to be exact. So not only are you less likely to hit it straight, but you also hit it shorter, and even if you get those two right, you still might misjudge the distance.

From a physiological standpoint, being dehydrated increases your risk of joint pain and injury. This is because your joints contain what is called synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant for the joints, allowing free motion. Consuming the appropriate amount of water will prevent against such joint pathologies from occurring.

As discussed by Robert Yang in a TPI article, the nucleus pulposus of an intervertebral disc is made up mostly of water. As a result, staying hydrated can reduce your risk of lower back pain.

How to prevent against dehydration:

There are three main things to consider when staying hydrated:

  1. Amount: A one size fits all approach is to be avoided. An effective way to work out how much water to drink should be based according to your weight. One should drink 3.5-4ml per kg of body weight. For example, a male golfer of 80 kilograms should drink 2,8 litres of water throughout the day. A female golfer of 60 kilograms should drink 2,1 litres throughout the day. Note that this is not only relating to the time on the course. This must be effectively timed during the day.
  2. Timing: It is important to effectively time your water consumption so is to avoid overhydrating. One needs to drink 25% of one’s recommended daily allowance soon after waking up. That is, for an 80 kilogram male, he would need to drink 700ml in the morning, so roughly two glasses of water. This is imperative as your body wakes up in a dehydrated state after sleeping. The next 50% must be consumed during your round, that is 1,4 litres for our average Joe of 80 kilograms. This amounts to roughly three bottles of still water. The remaining 25% needs to be consumed after the round into the evening.
  3. What to drink: Please note that these numbers refer strictly to water consumption only, that is excluding any fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks and so on. In fact, drinks containing sugar will have an adverse effect because the body will use more water to dilute the high sugar contents of your regular sports or energy drink. I see these most commonly at the halfway house. This will dehydrate you further, putting you at a disadvantage going in to the back nine. A simple bottle of water will do the trick.

So here’s to staying on top of your game this summer. May the Festive Season bring you many birdies and fond memories on and off the golf course!

Clinton Shum
Cell: 072 784 8698
Twitter: @shum711
Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Expert
In Association with the Logical Golf Lab, Durban Country Club

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