Food For Thought

April 14, 2009

When I was in high school, our football coach motivated us during practices by telling us that the only sport in which you could "sit on your butt and go backwards and win" was rowing. Golf is similarly distinctive. It's the only sport in which a serious competitor will sometimes put down a cigar to eat a hotdog.

Food and golf are connected because the average round lasts slightly longer than the maximum setting on the average player's stomach clock. Many years ago, I played in a three-day team event, during the first two days of which I noticed that my team's performance declined dramatically toward the middle of each day's second nine. I diagnosed transitory malnutrition, and, on the third day, suggested that we eat something at the turn. This treatment was effective, and none of us drooped during the final round.

Ever since then I've carried something edible in my bag during tournaments, which tend to be more stressful than ordinary rounds and are therefore more nutritionally demanding. And even if the extra calories aren't biologically necessary, eating trail mix gives me something to do while my fellow-competitors are tediously pacing off their yardages, pretending that they know how far they hit their irons.

Golf is the only sport in which a competitor will put down a cigar to eat a hotdog.'

Generally speaking, American golfers don't need to be told to consume more food--and the benefits of doing so while playing might not even extend to those who use carts. But eating is still a part of the game. Almost every round I play with my regular group includes at least one meal, usually lunch. After our Sunday-morning game, we cook cheeseburgers and hotdogs on the grill behind the clubhouse. (Our club doesn't have a restaurant -- a tremendous benefit, because that means it also doesn't have food minimums or salads.)

When we take field trips to other courses, we usually hang around for lunch, and we make life easy for our waiter or waitress by always ordering the same thing.

We could make life even easier by filling out our lunch orders in advance -- say, on preprinted forms with check boxes for "medium" or "medium rare," and for "American," "Swiss," or "cheddar" -- and handing them to the starter before teeing off.

A few years ago, before a winter golf outing with a pre-dawn departure time, Hacker (real name) offered to bring breakfast for the group in the form of "Red Bull and leftover Christmas cookies." (His wife was visiting relatives and therefore not monitoring his e-mails.) It was a nice gesture, but we decided, instead, to stop for Egg McMuffins -- the closest you can get to bacon cheeseburgers at 6 o'clock in the morning.


The King turns 80 on Sept. 10. Can you believe it? The USGA decided a great way to honor Arnold Palmer's eight decades on Planet Earth was to send him a message -- from everybody.

The USGA has created a "digital memory book" that will allow golf fans to leave a birthday message or a personal reflection about Palmer in the form of words, images or video.

The website will be maintained by the USGA, and accepted messages will be archived at the USGA Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in Far Hills, N.J. The best submissions will be included in a bound volume to be presented to Palmer. -- Ron Kaspriske