The players at The AT&T National had to contend with more than just the challenging Congressional C.C. layout during Friday’s second round. The record high temperatures arrived in Bethesda with a vengeance, and the competitors had to contend with a heat index of 109 degrees.
The combination of the tough venue, the firm and fast conditions and the oppressive heat made for some tough going in the first two rounds. The two round cut of 6 over was the was the second highest cut of the season, trailing only the U.S. Open at Olympic (8 over). The field was paced by Hunter Mahan after 36 holes, but more than anything else, it was the merciless heat that beat the players.
Playing in harsh summer conditions can be challenging, but there are ways to improve your chances for success. Just apply my “5 D’s" -- the summertime keys -- when playing in excessive temperatures:
Do your homework: Being adequately prepared for those super-hot days is important. Pack an extra towel, light snacks (nuts or granola bars), suncream, proper clothing, extra golf gloves, and sachets of energy drinks to give yourself a leg up on the competition. Also, if you are walking, use a lightweight golf bag (moon bag) or pull your bag on a trolley to help conserve energy. If you are driving, pack a small cooler with ice and extra facecloths. Keep the facecloths on the ice and use the chilled cloths periodically during the round to cool yourself down.
Drink water: Remember this important reality -- once you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated and if you are dehydrated, you have very little chance for your body to perform to its best. Remember also that fizzy soft drinks do not hydrate you at all. Water is the best way to hydrate, so make it your goal to drink some water on every hole. If you do not want to drink water, dilute Gatorade or a similar product -- and make sure it is diluted because a lot of those types of drinks contain a lot of sugar, and too much sugar can also be detrimental to your performance.
Don’t wipe your hands on your clothing: Maintaining a firm grip on the club is crucial to performance and keeping your hands free of perspiration and moisture can be challenging on very hot days. The very best way to dry your palms is through friction so either rub your palms together or, rub them up and down the grip on the club you are about to use. Alternatively, you can dry them on a towel, but avoid wiping your hands on your pants or your shirt at all costs; the reason being that your clothing will more than likely be somewhat moist from perspiration, and your attempts will be ineffective.
Dress appropriately and use sun-block: This logical bit of advice is too often disregarded. Appropriate clothing for a very hot day is a shirt and pants (shorts) made of light colors and fabrics that wick moisture off the body - avoid dark colors at all costs. Wear a hat and make sure that you apply sun-block to all areas of your body that will be exposed to the sun. Finally, wear white golf shoes because if your feet are cooler your overall body temperature will be lower.
Don’t forget to eat: Eating can be difficult on very hot days, but it is crucially important to good performance. Nibble on foods like nuts and fruit (bananas) while on the course to keep your sugar and salt levels up. If you stop through nine holes find something light such as a salad or a turkey sandwich to eat. Avoid dense foods (hot dogs and hamburgers) that are difficult to digest because your body temperature typically goes up when it is working hard to digest food.
Deploy your umbrella: Take your golf umbrella with you if you are using a golf cart or a trolley and you do not have to carry it. The umbrella provides awesome respite from the sun and hence the heat, and I am surprised that golfers do not use it more often. (Use of the umbrella on sunny days is very popular in the East, and it makes a huge difference in the hot and humid conditions out there.) Try it -– I am confident you will be pleasantly surprised.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.