First Published by Golf Week
Driving from Los Angeles Country Club in California to TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, covers 3,055 miles and would, according to Google Maps, take you about 58 hours to complete by car.
Needless to say, after Rory McIlroy lost the U.S. Open by one shot to Wyndham Clark, emptied his locker and packed his bags on Sunday, he was not hitting the road and driving to the following week’s Travelers Championship. McIlroy stayed in Los Angeles that night, had a few glasses of red wine with dinner and headed to bed before flying east on Monday morning. However, the four-time major winner went home to Florida instead of Connecticut to see his family, get some rest and recover.
“I try to get into the time zone where I’m going as quickly as possible,” McIlroy said Wednesday evening at TPC River Highlands. “I didn’t do a good job of that on Monday night because I started watching TV, and all of a sudden it was midnight [in Florida] and it was 9 p.m. back there and I didn’t feel tired.”
Many of the game’s best players have descended upon Royal Liverpool Golf Club after flying across Asia, Africa, and Europe. They have come from Australia, South America and North America too, and must recover quickly to be at their best on Thursday and contend for the Claret Jug.
Jon Rahm, this year’s Masters champion, has a lot of experience in getting over the fatigue associated with travel. As resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, he frequently flies cross-country after the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing concludes in February.
“My main thing, if I have a long flight, would be staying hydrated, making sure I’m hydrated,” he said. “You can get dehydrated on a plane when you’re there for five hours very, very quickly, so making sure I’m keeping up on that takes care of a lot.”
You can not bring a drink through security, but a great way to stay hydrated while traveling that does not involve buying $7 bottles of water is to bring an empty, refillable bottle with you in your carry-on bag. Nearly every airport has water bottle filling stations throughout its terminals, and many restaurants and bars will fill your bottle with ice. The Yeti Rambler 18 oz. bottle ($30) and the Hydro Flask 24 oz. bottle ($40.99) keep ice water cold for over 24 hours and shut tightly, making them excellent travel options.
Rahm also forces himself to do what no one wants to do after a long plane ride. Exercise.
“If you have time and [access to] a gym or whatever it may be, get a little bit of exercise in,” Rahm said. “It doesn’t need to be crazy. It could be 30, 40 minutes of just some kind of stretching or whatever to get the blood
flowing a little bit more so your body can just naturally recover and get things moving.”
When you book your vacation, check to see if the hotel where you are staying has a gym and if it is open 24 hours a day. If it doesn’t, find out if the hotel has a relationship with a nearby gym where guests can work out for free or at a discounted daily rate.
“The exercise part [of recovery], I found that being very beneficial when I go across the Atlantic, when you go to Europe, Dubai flights like that,” Rahm said. “But landing and going straight to the gym, and actually if it’s mid-afternoon trying to get a hard workout in, has helped me by far the most get over jet lag and things like that. It’s like a reset to the body.”
Airlines scrutinize the weight of everyone’s luggage, and the cost of checking a bag that weighs between 50 and 70 pounds on airlines like Delta and American Airlines is $100, so bringing exercise gear on a trip is tricky. Exercise bands are a great option and weigh almost nothing, but a GolfForever training stick ($199) and bands can easily be dropped in your golf travel bag so you can get through an entire workout in your hotel room while following along with its smartphone app.
Therapy Devices & Supplements
To help golfers relax sore muscles and relieve stiffness, the PGA Tour has a small cart filled with therapy guns that gets rolled into the practice area at every event. Devices like the Hypervolt 2 Pro ($259) use percussion massage therapy, but for travelers, the Hyperice Volt Go 2 ($99) is a more portable, less expensive option.
It also brings two 18-wheel trucks filled with exercise gear, massage tables and equipment. That’s where you will find Digby Watt, a physical therapist who works with the PGA Tour. He helps players keep their bodies in peak shape and knows all about travel fatigue.
“Things that we focus on with the guys start with sleep, which is a challenge, but you have to get good sleep in order for the body to recover,” Watt said.
The PGA Tour partnered with Whoop, a wearable device maker, in 2020 and made the device available to all its players after Whoop research revealed that it could help golfers who had contracted COVID-19 learn they had the virus before they became symptomatic. However, Whoop ($30 per month) is designed to track a person’s heart rate and exertion level throughout the day, then show how much sleep is recommended and how well a person has recovered the following morning. Combining data it collects with daily input from the wearer, Whoop can reveal what habits are positive for recovery, like meditation, and which are detrimental to recovery, like late-night meals.
Watt recommends that players wake up early in the morning after arriving in a tournament city and having caffeine, but he does not recommend players take in caffeine after lunch.
“If they are going to take a power nap, which is a good thing to catch up on sleep, we recommend taking it earlier in the day so that it doesn’t affect evening sleep.”
He also recommends avoiding alcohol, avoiding junk food and reducing screen time later in the afternoon and evening. Smartphone screens and televisions emit blue light, which can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and reduce your natural melatonin creation. Watt says that Melatonin supplements taken in the evening can be helpful for many players.
Many golfers also benefit from a session with Hyperice Normatec leggings ($699). After sliding your legs into the boots and zipping them up, a compressor that teethers to a smartphone app via Bluetooth is activated, and the leggings inflate, like the arm cuff your doctor uses to measure your blood pressure. Rory McIlroy said that he occasionally travels with his Normatec boots but tends to use them after intense workouts.
“It applies gradient pressure, starting at the lowest point in your body, your feet, and working up. It flushes the fluids that build up on airplanes back up where it can get drained.” Watt said. “It’s like getting a deep-tissue massage. When you get up, your legs feel a little bit lighter.”
Fifteen minutes on a stationary bike can also create this effect.
Rahm, McIlroy and the other players in the field at Royal Liverpool depend on their bodies to make a living. On the other hard, you just want to play well when you’re on vacation. Remembering a few of these tips and planning ahead can help make that happen.