There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether beer or water is better for golfers. One is tastier. The other will help you stay hydrated. The best choice depends on your individual needs (or stress level) and how far into the round you are.
If you are looking to shoot lower scores, it’s probably best to drink plenty of water and avoid pounding barley pops. But a few Sculpins or Bud Heavies over the course of 5-6 hours isn’t going to turn an 80 into a 90, but could turn a 90 into a 87. Don’t ever discount how a beer or two can help loosen up the nerves and squelch first tee jitters.
But, not every round is about breaking the course record. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable round of golf, then, have a few beers, or if you’re feeling frisky, some delicious White Claws on a hot summer day.
Pros and Cons of Beer On the Course
For shits and giggles, we asked our friend ChatGPT, currently the most popular AI on the interwebs, to take a pass at summarizing the Pros and Cons of drinking on the course. Here is the first attempt at this from good ol’ artificial intelligence.
- Beer is a refreshing drink that can help to relax and calm the nerves. (Hell yeah!)
- It can also help to improve focus and concentration. (3-footers might as well be 10-footers.)
- Some studies have even shown that moderate beer consumption can improve golf performance. (Where’s the first tee, what’s the course record?)
- Beer is high in calories and carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain and fatigue. (Boooo.)
- It can also dehydrate the body, which can lead to poor performance on the course. (That’s why God created the “scientists” who created Gatorade.”
- Alcohol can also impair judgment and coordination, which can lead to poor shot selection and execution. (A myth!)l
There is nothing groundbreaking in this AI output, and we all pretty much know this information. Not to mention there was no citation for the “studies” mentioned that show improved performance (Of course that shouldn’t stop you confidently mentioning this fact while ordering a round at the turn!)
Anecdotally there may be some benefits to having a drink. Playing a round with new friends or colleagues or teeing off at an event with any spectators can create stress. Alcohol undoubtedly can help alleviate some of this but as with other activities (we’re looking at you darts and pool) there is a sweet spot of blood alcohol content before the wheels fall off. (A good rule of thumb, if the pee is turning yellow, the drives are going to start bouncing off or roofs!)
ChatGPT summarized what anyone who has spent some time on the course with a few empties knows. There is a trade-off with having beer on the course.
What about golf etiquette when you imbibe? Being a jerk (or just plain oblivious) can be anything from talking/moving/farting during backswings to hitting the wrong ball. We accept that regardless of how having a beer or three impacts your game, but if it starts to encroach on the fun and focus of others on the course then you need to be switching to water.
Water, the Good Kind. (Not the kind your pearlie white ball dives into after dumping your 6-Iron,)
Typically finding water on the course leads to problems. But when it comes to staying hydrated, you really do need to pound the water to lower your scores.
Unlike the AI suggested studies that beer can help performance, it was easy to find scientific journals that show dehydration can wreak havoc on your scores. One study showed that even mild dehydration can impact both shot distance as well as accuracy (source).
The takeaway from this is that even though beer may anecdotally impact your game negatively, dehydration is scientifically proven to do so. So why not just drink both, beer and water? Or, if feeling a little randy, Gin & Juice…and water?
The trick is to find the best way to balance the consumption of both. We have two proven strategies for this:
Strategy One: Make it a game. This works best when you’re
lazy taking advantage of a cart and riding like most lazy/chubby golfers to enjoy a leisurely round with friends. Load up two cup holders, one with a beer and one with water, then drink from wherever your shot dictates. Slice one off the tee, drink from the beer on the right. Hit it to 15-ft from 110 yards, sip some wonderful Fiji Water. Miss a 2-footer, pound the aluminum can.
Strategy Two: Focus on the fact that water intake can be hard to gauge during a round. One way to avoid this is to grab a “smart” water bottle that tracks intake using cool tech and software. Something like the PUL Hydration system, a smart bottle cap that monitors how much water you drink and shares that data via bluetooth to your phone, keeping track of how much water you had over the course of the day. This can come in handy when you need the receipts (“I only had 3 beers, honey, but I drank 110 oz of water!).
Every Round is Different
The beauty of golf is that the game is unique each time you play. For example, one week the pace-of-play may be frustratingly slow while you are playing a money game. The next time out you may be playing “company” golf with clients, and a slow round is just another excuse to enjoy an extra drink or three on the course.
Each golf round scenario will dictate which is the best alcohol vs water path to take. Here are some additional things to consider when making your decision between a light lager and some ice water:
- Your fitness level: If you are in good shape, you may be able to handle a few beers on the course without any negative effects. However, if you are not in good shape, drinking alcohol could lead to dehydration and fatigue, which could affect your performance.
- Your tolerance for alcohol: Some people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others. If you know that you are not a good drinker, it is best to avoid alcohol altogether, especially if you drove to the course.
- The weather: If you are playing golf in hot weather, it is important to stay hydrated. Alcohol will accelerate dehydration, so it is extra important to monitor intake on days you are sweating like Shaq.
- Your social group: If you are playing golf with a group of friends who like to drink, you may feel pressure to join in. It’s ok to say no. It’s also ok to say, “hell yeah I want an extra spicy bloody and a beer chaser!” If you are not comfortable drinking, it is important to set boundaries.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to drink beer or water while golfing is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best choice for you will depend on your individual circumstances. And remember, the decision doesn’t need to be either/or, often the most enjoyable option is both!
About the Author: Chris is a full-time dad, part-time athlete, and professional product manager, leaving minimal time for his developing his golf game. He also covers wearables, coaching, and tracking sports performance at Personal Wellness Tracking.
Visit PersonalWellnessTracking.com to read more of his research and articles.