I’m pumped for the PGA Championship to return to Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The last time the PGA was held there, I can remember watching Tiger Woods sweating buckets in the August heat in what was the hottest major on record. It was an amazing test of Tiger’s preparation and endurance to battle that extreme heat and humidity to grab the win.
Even though the PGA Championship has moved to the month of May, the forecast for next week looks like it will be 90F and around 60 per cent humidity every day at Southern Hills. Combine that with the undulations of the golf course and hydration is going to be extremely important for my athletes who are playing the second major of the year: Cam Smith, Matt Jones and Luke List.
Hydration status is something I always monitor with my athletes, but it becomes far more important in hot weather and humidity. When humidity is high, the body doesn’t have the normal methods of sweating and thermo-regulating. If an athlete doesn’t have the ability to sweat properly, the body will start to overheat. When you overheat, you start to push the body to its limits and that can negatively impact performance.
The easiest way to determine hydration status is if an athlete doesn’t drink enough water - and if they don’t take enough hydration supplements - their urine will be a strong yellow color. In most cases, that indicates dehydration. Conversely, if it's translucent and clear, it usually means they're well hydrated. There’s a lot more depth to hydration status than that, but that is a simple explanation.
I'm lucky enough to partner with a hydration supplement company called LivPur and it’s easy to consume their supplements within a bottle of water. You’ll often see pro golfers putting hydration supplements in their water bottles during a round of golf. For a PGA Tour athlete, it's not just a four or five-hour round of golf – they train and practice before and sometimes after. If the temperature gets up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, a PGA Tour athlete should ideally drink two bottles every hour with a hydration supplement. It often works out to be three bottles per nine holes.
The reason it’s so important to stay hydrated, especially at the elite level, is that dehydration prevents the ability to regulate internal temperature. That can then affect decision making, focus and physical exertion. If a PGA Tour athlete lacks focus, it will affect their skill set. Dehydration and a lack of electrolytes can heavily fatigue the muscles, especially later in the round, and that’s going to cost a golfer shots.
If an athlete’s electrolyte status is low, or if they lack magnesium, potassium or sodium within certain muscles, that’s taking out vital minerals which allow the muscles to contract and relax, reducing the ability to produce energy and swing the club with the same commitment a golfer is used to. Because the golf swing is such a complex movement, utilizing all muscles and joints across the body is crucial.
Another aspect I’ll have to monitor with my athletes at the PGA Championship is load management, which is the case at all major championships. Because a major raises the intensity of the event versus a regular tournament, the temptation is to work harder. But we have to ensure the guys aren't overdoing it; that they are playing a suitable number of practice round holes and preparation that is suitable for their games and their bodies.
We want quality over quantity.
Cheers, Nic Catterall
About Nic Catterall/Peak Power Golf
Nic Catterall is an Australian high-performance coach, specializing in strength and conditioning, musculoskeletal therapy and sports science, for professional golfers on the PGA Tour in the U.S.A. Nic works with Cam Smith, Luke List, Matt Jones, Dylan Frittelli and Hank Lebioda. Nic created the Peak Power Golf company to educate about the athleticism of golfers and what they are capable of. Peak Power Golf provides online training, athlete mentoring and athlete assessments.