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Golf at High Altitude
John Steinbreder, GolfersMD News
Jul 30, 2008

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Golfers playing in the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado this week will be fighting more than the competition in this Champions Tour major. They will also be dealing with the challenges of altitude, as this acclaimed Donald Ross course in the Rockies is laid out some 6,000 feet above sea level. Which means it is more than a mile high.

First, the good news. Higher altitude means golf shots travel farther, and that is not necessarily a bad thing for seniors who may have been fretting over the loss of a few yards off the tee in recent years. It does, however, put a greater premium on distance control, and those who best figure how far their six-irons and pitching wedges are traveling at that elevation are the ones who will most likely be in the hunt come Sunday.

But what could be more difficult for the pros to manage this week is what a rare tournament in rarified air means to their bodies – and their ability to play at the highest possible levels.

“It all stars with hydration,” says GolfersMD expert Dr. Vijay Vad, a sports medicine specialist and researcher at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. “Higher altitude causes players to dehydrate faster, so they need to drink a minimum of five ounces of fluids every 15 minutes they are on the course. And it is important for them to start the fluids a couple of hours before they play. Otherwise, they can find themselves susceptible to the sort of nausea and light-headedness that come with the onset of altitude sickness. That not only presents health risks of its own but also makes it much more difficult to concentrate and compete at a high level.”

Another issue, Vad points out, is simple conditioning. “It is easy to get out of breath quicker at such elevations, especially when you are walking 18 holes,” he says. “So, it helps that players are in good physical condition if they are teeing it up at places like The Broadmoor. Also, it is a good idea for anyone playing at higher altitudes to allow a few days to get acclimated. Senior Open competitors will help themselves by getting to Colorado Springs as early as they can and getting used to the conditions in which they will be competing. They might want to start with nine holes the first day and ease themselves into a full 18 so their bodies can adjust.”

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User Comments

Good points on the hydration aspect of high altitude golf. Thanks