Best time to play golf - by 'Sleep Doctor'

Early birds rarely plays well

By Golfmagic on Tue, 26 Apr 2011 - 11:04

The time of day we play golf can seriously effect our performance, according to sleep experts. Though playing the 'dawn patrol' may be more convenient, it's more likely to deliver more bogeys than birdies, while a late afternoon tee time is more productive for better scoring.

According Dr. Charles Czeisler, the director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School there are benefits to being an early bird but they pale compared to driving off into the setting sun.

“From a circadian rhythm standpoint, 6:30 in the morning is the worst possible time to play golf,” he told the New York Times. “It would be the absolute nadir of performance preparedness. You will be less flexible, your co-ordination will be off a little, your judgment will not be as good and your short-term memory would be affected.

“It’s less crowded on the course at that time so it might be more enjoyable, but it’s very far from the optimal time to play if you’re talking about performance.”

Playing early allows many people to play who couldn't normally because golf can be more about availability and convenience.

But he says don’t expect to score better in the morning compared to those with a later tee time. Many of us might start well but then fatigue kicks in and our game starts to stumble.

Those who study exercise science say turning your face to the sun can also improve your chances of playing better.

“In terms of physiology and body alertness, there are so many components that go into playing golf,” says Shawn Youngstedt from the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina.

“There are basic things to understand that might help the golfer.”

For example the most productive time period for athletes is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m when most athletics world records are set. So golfers should maybe start more rounds about 4 p.m. in the summer when there's still time to get 18 holes in.

Starting at 10 a.m. might be next best advisable time but only if you can take a nap after nine holes! Between 1pm and 4pm apparently is when our body feels to need to sleep.

Czeisler, says 4 p.m. is a preferred time to play because our body is coming out of a period when the desire to sleep is strong. In late afternoon, we are catching a second wind.

“Every study of shift work reveals that people on the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift are most productive,” he says. "People try to fix that by downing a couple of cups of coffee, but that isn’t a good idea for golf. Caffeine adversely affects movement and can produce tremors in your hands. Any precise golf manoeuvre could be affected.”

A better idea, he says, would be to hit the course a little earlier, go outside and face the sun for 10 minutes. Get up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., enjoy early sunlight and reset your circadian system to be ready.

The Sleep Doctor, also suggests golf clubs should create little dark areas for those wanting to nap.

“Golf courses ought to offer golf and nap packages,” he says.

Tell us on the forum your preferred and optimum time to play golf...