Last year, following the lead of Tiger Woods, I decided to hire myself a team of experts to improve my game. I found myself a golf fitness coach (John Ondrush), a swing coach (Cheryl Anderson), bought all new clubs (Exotics by Tour Edge), and even found some spiritual guidance with a minister (Roger Joslin.) I called my little group Team Tommy and there is little doubt that my game improved dramatically because of it. During my training, I went from a struggling five to a strong three handicap, and I’m hoping to improve myself even more in the coming year.
As the new season begins, it is time once again to strive to make improvements in my game. I have come this far with a consistent fitness regimen, swing analysis, my new Exotics and some spiritual guidance. Not only has this made me a better golfer, I feel that I am a more mentally, physically, and spiritually fit person. So what else can I do to ensure victory in the coming year? I have long realized that one of the more esoteric but crucial elements to sport performance is nutrition. All the talk of steroid use in baseball suggests that what you take into your body has a big effect on what your body is able to do on the playing field. The key is finding things that aid your performance and your health, something that steroids obviously fail to do. Note how Tiger Woods eats apples and bananas on the course. He also maintains an extremely healthy diet off the course. Is it any surprise he’s hoisting trophies almost ever Sunday?
I work in the Psychiatry Department at Winthrop University Hospital and recently met Donna Norkaitis, a licensed nutritionist in Dr. Lawrence Shapiro’s endocrinology department. I asked Donna for some nutritional guidance to help with my golf game. Here are the things she told me:
1) It is important to maintain proper nutrition for a variety of reasons. You will reduce weight, which will help your swing mechanics. In addition, good nutrition will reduce fatigue, improve concentration, and lower the risk of injury.
2) Eat a variety of foods. Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, cereals, and lean proteins should be eaten every day.
3) Cut down on sweets, including cake, ice cream, and soda. This will come as a real downer to most of you, and I am no exception. Many tears went into writing this article, I assure you.
4) Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. Ms. Norkaitis told me that both are diuretics, meaning they dehydrate the body. This disturbs cognitive function. Alcohol slows down the mind and caffeine speeds it up. For a stable, consistent daily mindset, you are better off without either.
5) Reduce salt. Salt increases blood pressure and can contribute to the jitters, or “yips.”
6) Drink plenty of water. Donna suggested drinking eight glasses per day. Golfers do a lot of sweating over the course of a round, and that fluid needs to be replaced. Surprisingly, Donna also told me that water is better then sport drinks and cool water is better than cold water.
7) Carbohydrates are good for golfers. Foods like fruit, vegetables, cereals, brown rice and pasta are great because they are easy to digest and they improve endurance.
8) Snacks like nuts and dried apricots are better then candy or cookies. No surprise here.
9) Eat a light meal at least three hours before you play. Good foods include pasta, fresh fruit, a turkey sandwich, cottage cheese, fruit salad, and bananas.
10) Imitate Tiger and eat a banana or an apple once every five holes. That means you eat three pieces of fruit each round.
11) You need to replenish fluids and restore nutrients after the round. Drink fruit juices and have a good meal with lean meat or fish, and don’t forget your vegetables and carbohydrates.
All of these steps that Donna gave me are easy in theory, but much more difficult to adhere to in practice. To stick to the program, I plan on seeing Donna each week, face to face. Human contact is a great motivator, and you shouldn’t be afraid to find someone that can motivate you, too. A nutritionist is a great addition to your golf support group, and I know Donna will be a big help to Team Tommy. Besides, tough love can be good, too. I’m expecting a slap on the wrist for those donuts I can’t seem to stay away from! Dr. Tom Ferraro
is a sports psychologist who specializes in helping professional and amateur golfers. He plays to a 3 handicap and has an office in Williston Park, which is located in central Nassau County.