124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


This mineral improves energy and endurance—female golfers probably aren’t getting enough of it

August 31, 2023

Chung Sung-Jun

If there’s one thing every golfer needs to get through 18 holes, it’s endurance. And if you’re deficient in iron, you’re going to struggle with both endurance and energy.

The PGA Tour’s performance dietician, Ryan Harmon, says iron deficiency is common amongst women. In an extreme case, LPGA Tour winner Ha Na Jang was treated for anemia in a hospital. Here’s what to look out for, and how to get more iron in your diet so you can have a better chance at finishing long rounds with good energy.

What does iron do?

Iron is crucial for red blood cell function, Harmon explains. “We’re carrying our oxygen in our red blood cells to our muscle tissue. So that's going to help with energy and endurance,” Harmon said. “With low iron in the blood, we're not going to be carrying as much oxygen. We’re more likely to see anemia.”

Low iron causes exhaustion

Someone with low iron can experience fatigue, lightheadedness, and decreased endurance, Harmon says.

Women are more likely to have low iron

There are several factors that can affect your iron levels. Diet plays a big role: “If the athlete is vegetarian or vegan, we'll typically see more iron-related issues,” Harmon says. For women, menstrual periods make iron levels dip. “Sometimes there's something going on there and she's bleeding heavily every month and her body cannot keep up with replacing the iron,” Harmon said.

Consume foods from an animal source to increase iron

“I usually only see a physician recommending supplementation if the levels are very, very, very low,” Harmon said. Instead, Harmon says to increase your intake of foods from an animal source.

“Include red meat in your meals, that’s going to be the highest option for iron,” Harmon says.

You can even have on-course snacks that are high in iron, like grass-fed beef or bison jerky.

If you don’t eat meat, Harmon says there are plant-based options, too: nuts, lentils, spinach and legumes are all good options. “The tricky part with plant-based foods is the absorption of iron,” Harmon said. “You need to incorporate it with Vitamin C, which helps increase the absorption of iron in plant-based foods.”

A blood test is the only way to know for certain whether or not you have an iron deficiency, but eating a diet of iron-rich foods can make a difference in your ability to play a full round with good energy.