What Should You Eat Before Playing Golf?

Getting the right food inside you may be the secret to shaving shots off your handicap

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods sat at a picnic bench
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re anything like me, what I eat before I play golf is the least of my worries. I’m too concerned with actually getting out of bed and to the course on time to even think about breakfast.

If everything comes together I might have time for a quick bacon sandwich in the clubhouse but more often than not I’ll stock up on snacks, including some fruit if I’m feeling healthy, and head straight to the first tee.

If this sounds familiar your pre-game routine could be damaging your scoring potential. What you eat pre-round will set you up for the four or five hours ahead far better than trying to deal with the problem on the course. No matter how good a spread you can expect at the halfway house, the damage may have already been done.

What to eat the night before a round of golf

If you’re looking to gain every advantage over your playing partners, a well-balanced meal the night before is essential. Nutritionists recommend lean protein, which helps keep hunger at bay between meals – chicken or fish work well in this respect. Add to this some high-fibre carbs such as sweet potato and spinach, which is high in vitamins and antioxidants.

You may be tempted to go for a starchy pasta dish because you think the carbs will help the following day but these can make you sluggish in the morning. The same goes for high-fat meals such as steak.

You should eat between 90-120 minutes before going to bed and drink plenty of water. Refraining from alcohol may be a step too far for you on a Saturday night but doing so will mean you get a better night’s sleep and you’ll wake up with a spring in your step.

What to eat before a round of golf

You may have heard breakfast described as the most important meal of the day and this is certainly the case if you’re heading out to play golf.

Your body needs to wake up properly but a full English, however tempting, is not the answer as it only offers empty calories. You’ll be carrying around all the weight of the food but you won’t get any of the benefits. Your body won’t have time to turn it into energy.

If your tee-time allows it, you should eat at least an hour before you play and then top up with a snack before you strike your first tee shot. This can be fruit, nuts or cereal bars – not a Snickers from the pro-shop.

You should also make sure you’re well hydrated. Drink a pint of water with your breakfast and make sure you pack plenty of fluids in your bag.

High-fibre cereal with low-fat yogurt and fruit will set you up nicely. Scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast could also do the job. The most important thing is to eat something.

Starting a round on an empty stomach is one of the worst things you can do – not quite as bad as a raging hangover, but getting there!

Don’t be tempted to go for a high-sugar snack to give you a boost. This will create a blood sugar imbalance which will result in fatigue early on in your round.

If you haven’t got time for a full breakfast, a protein bar can keep your energy levels up. You can then top this up by making sure you eat on the way round.

If you have a later tee time eat 2-3 hours before a round and top up with a snack before teeing off. The meal outlined as a night before option will work well here.

Lastly, try to avoid tea or coffee or sugary drinks and definitely avoid the pre-round pint as this will affect coordination.

David Taylor

David joined Golf Monthly in 2015 as a content editor for the magazine and regularly contributes to the website. He has worked in magazine publishing and editing since 2003. He is a keen golfer and up until recently was a member of Blackmoor Golf Club in Hampshire. He has covered various big events and tournaments for GM, the highlight of which was witnessing Tiger Woods win his 15th Major at Augusta in 2019. Email: david.taylor@futurenet.com