Discover which top golfers are using CBD to alleviate pain, recover from injury and improve their concentration. It’s one of the most popular trends on the PGA Tour. And, some would argue, one of its riskiest.
What is CBD and which golfers use it?
CBD is steadily becoming one of the worst kept secrets in golf.
You’ll undoubtedly have heard chatter on the PGA Tour news wheel when it comes to the product, which an increasing number of professionals are using to maximise their recovery, reduce anxiety and improve concentration.
But what exactly is CBD and which players are openly using it?
CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. The product does not contain THC, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation.
THC is a banned substance on the PGA Tour, however, both the PGA’s Anti-Doping Program and even the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have removed CBD from their prohibited lists.
The benefits of the compound include heightened focus, reduced inflammation and pain and can promote better sleep and injury recovery. Thus far, there appears to be no negative side effects.
Naturally, for the top professionals who put great stress on their bodies through practice, tournaments and gym work every single week, CBD is proving a popular supplement to their performance.
Better sleep before early tee times, emotional regulation to stay calm in the face of adversity, optimising focus when heading to a playoff in a major and eliminating nagging injuries, aches and pains. These are all optimal scenarios that players want to achieve, and if it’s legal to do so – why not take CBD?
Of course, an element of caution must still be taken.
Matt Every was suspended from the PGA Tour for three months earlier this winter for violating its drug policy. The ban was for cannabis usage, despite Every claiming he has a prescription for it on medical grounds.
Every’s ban serves as a reminder of how meticulous Tour players must be when filtering what enters their body, and the PGA Tour warns players to use CBD “at their own risk”. They warn that some products may contain traces of THC, and thus players must place a premium on researching the available brands and ensuring their quality before partaking.
However, several big names have done their research and even signed partnerships with CBD companies – their brand names now popping up on visors and bags across the tournament field.
Without further ado, here are the golfing trailblazers who are staunch advocates of CBD. We take a look at their motivations for using CBD products and how it has impacted their recent performances:
For the man who conquered Augusta National twice in three years, CBD is the key to prolonging his successful career.
He is one of the most outspoken proponents of CBD on Tour, and has had his own team of doctors analyse exactly what he is taking to ensure it is right for his body and does not put him at risk of a failed drug test.
Bubba is now 41, and his inspiration for taking the supplement stems from the continued playmaking of his older peers.
Watson told CNN, “I see Phil Mickelson winning at 48, so I’ve got at least eight more years of having a shot of winning some tournaments.
“So for me it was about how I create longevity in the game of golf and spending time with my kids running around. CBD was easily a fit for me.”
The recovery benefits of CBD particularly resonate with Watson, who wants to maximise his pain relief and improve his sleep.
Speaking to TheStreet, Watson said: “The inflammation in my body, waking up with better sleep. They were the two things I focused on. With a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old in the house, and playing golf all day, I needed some energy fast.”
Watson has signed a partnership with a CBD company, and displays this affiliation on his playing visors.
McCarron is the number one ranked player on the PGA Champions Tour.
He has three Tour wins in 2019, playing in 26 events – only three of the top 100 ranked players have competed in more tournaments than him this year.
McCarron has now been using CBD products for nearly two years, during which he has exhibited enviable success and longevity.
Now, CBD usage benefits from heightened discussion and debate among the senior players, owing to a greater risk of bodily aches and pains, as well as the more relaxed drug testing processes for the over-50s.
McCarron, speaking with ESPN, revealed that he first gave CBD the green light after it drastically improved his sleep.
He said: “I went and tried it about two weeks later when I went home. I measure my sleep with a device called WHOOP. For the first time in about two years of wearing the device, I was taking the CBD oil, and I had fantastic sleep for seven days straight.”
McCarron also believes that CBD can effectively boost the performance of the average golfer.
He attests that CBD’s capacity to reduce anxiety out on the course is of great potential to those playing the sport recreationally. Be it first-tee nerves or slippery four-footers, McCarron sees CBD as a solution – particularly if golfers are turning to alcohol to calm their nerves.
Lucas Glover enjoyed his best season in over a decade in 2019.
His efforts included a fourth-place finish at the Honda Classic and a total of 7 top-ten finishes.
Glover believes that his use of CBD alongside his improved play is no coincidence.
Players are using and endorsing CBD, but the PGA Tour is wary
It’s one of the most popular trends on tour. And, some would argue, one of its riskiest.
In 2018, the World AntiDoping Agency removed CBD from its Prohibited List, allowing its use by PGA Tour players and Olympic athletes. (The tour, as a participant in the Games, takes its direction on drug enforcement from WADA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency.) Maggie Durand of WADA says a drug is placed on the list for meeting two of three criteria: It has the potential to enhance sport performance, it represents a health risk to the athletes, and it violates the spirit of sport.
According to tour players, caddies and coaches interviewed by Golf Digest, perhaps 15 to 20 players, or more, routinely use a CBD product. Bubba Watson, Charley Hoffman, Lucas Glover and Scott Piercy are among the high-profile names with CBD-related sponsorships, along with Champions player Scott McCarron.
What spurs the players’ CBD use varies. Cited benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, anxiety relief, and improved sleep. Watson, who has been the most vocal player on the topic, says the product keeps him pain-free.
“What many don’t realize is the incredible mental and physical strain pro golfers endure practicing and competing day after day and year after year,” says Anthony Mazzotti, CEO of Functional Remedies, which became the first hemp-oil company to become an official sponsor on tour (the Champions’ Rapiscan Systems Classic).
In April, however, the tour sent a warning to players about CBD. The warning, which the tour shared with Golf Digest, states, “The FDA, DEA and private organizations including Major League Baseball (MLB), have conducted tests on CBD and “THC-free” products only to find significant levels of psychoactive (and prohibited) THC or falsely labeled amounts of CBD.”
Andy Levinson, executive director of the PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program, has expressed concern because of the lack of regulation within the industry. In a 2017 study, the American Medical Association discovered more than two-thirds of products tested had different levels of CBD than what was stated on the label. In 21 percent of those items, THC was found, which at any level could produce a failed test for a tour player.
“CBD in its pure form is not prohibited,” Levinson told Golf Digest, “but the use of CBD in any of its currently available forms would be at a player’s risk.”
Some players remain undaunted. “I’ve had doctors involved to do my research and see what companies out there make a product that’s safe for me and safe for my family. It was a no-brainer,” Watson says. “There’s no bad stuff in it, there are no chemicals in there that will mess you up or make you fail a drugs test. There are certain companies we trust.”
To this point, no player has publicly failed a tour drug test because of CBD use. And, given the samples of CBD products available at a handful of PGA Tour events this season, there’s not a back-room stigma to its use. Nevertheless, Levinson says he gets more CBD-related questions than on any other supplement.
“You see this a lot in the supplement industry,” Levinson says. “There’s some buzz around something, and everybody tries it, and they might stick to it for a while, but generally a lot of times it fades away.”