No matter what the weather, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread never fails to appeal to Kim Kaufman if she needs an energy boost on the golf course.
Like many players in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Kaufman always carries one of the sandwiches with her during competitions, along with a banana. She likes the sandwich’s mix of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates and fiber.
“A lot of tournaments have stations where we can make one,” says Kaufman, a fourth-year pro from Texas and entrant in the Kingsmill Championship. “I’ll often eat half toward the end of the first nine, and then the rest a few holes later. It’s easy to carry, and it’s a great pickup for me.”
Staying physically and mentally strong through 18 holes of golf takes smart refueling. That generally means no sugary, processed snacks, which lead to quick energy spikes and drops. Instead, popular portable choices include almonds, peanuts, low-sugar protein bars, beef jerky and trail mixes heavy on nuts with a little chocolate for a sweet boost.
Each player has her own tastes, and her own snacking system. Seven-year tour veteran Ryann O’Toole, for example, isn’t a PB&J fan. She relies on Amazing Grass powders, a dose of greens that she adds to her water.
“Vegetables are great for mental stamina, but they’re hard to bring on the course,” says O’Toole, another Kingsmill Championship entrant. “Obviously this only gives me a fraction of what I would get from whole foods, but it still has great nutritional value.” She also has small snacks every two or three holes, even if it’s just a handful of nuts, a few bites of beef jerky or half a protein bar (she rotates flavors so she doesn’t get bored).
“Some players wait eight or nine holes, but if I did that, I would realize, ‘Oh, I’m really hungry now,’” she explains. “That leads to those energy swings you don’t want.”
LPGA tournaments often have stations at the first and 10th tees with apples, bananas and energy bars, although many players bring their own bars to control for flavor and sugar levels. Kingsmill has a table set up in a locker room used for mid-round breaks with PB&J fixings – creamy peanut butter, grape jelly and wheat, white or rye bread – bananas, apples, oranges and Kashi trail bars.
“I’ve been here 12 years, and the sandwiches and bananas are always the most popular,” says Patti Napoleon, Chair of Player Services for the event.
Rarely, there’s a candy bowl at snack stops. Players say they occasionally indulge during a round, but on a very limited basis: one miniature Snickers bar, maybe, or a Starburst as a reward for a birdie. Any candy usually gets stashed for a later treat.
As for drinks, players tend to prefer water, which unlike sports drinks is sugar free. However, many will add a dissolvable tablet with electrolytes to replenish their levels of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals important to peak muscle and nerve function.
Those who carry Gatorade sometimes add a bit of salt for the same reason, especially on hot days when they lose more through sweat. “I steal those little packets of salt at fast food restaurants,” Kaufman says with a laugh. “I can’t taste it in the Gatorade, but I’ve found it really helps me get through a weekend.”
Of course, good nutrition off the course is what really counts. So the night before competitions – and the majority of days and nights – vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa will beat out cheeseburgers, pizza, chips and the like.
“Not eating well is like not putting on sunscreen,” O’Toole says. “It’s not protecting your insides.”