While an intern, resident, and cardiology fellow at New England Medical Center (now Tufts Medical Center) and then as director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany during a stint in the Army, Edward Palank, M71, had little time for athletic pursuits. But when he established the New England Heart Institute at Catholic Medical Center in 1985 in Manchester, N.H., he became interested in the relationship between golf and health. Conversations with cardiac patients eager to return to the greens sparked his 1990 study, “The Benefits of Walking the Golf Course,” which showed that players who eschewed a cart could lower total cholesterol and improve their risk ratios. The oft-cited research helped cement Palank’s reputation as the “Golf Doc,” which was also the title of his 1999 book. Ahead, the longtime Golf Digest writer and PGA and USGA consultant offers tips for staying in topflight shape on the links this summer.
Take Heart. The golf course is the fifth most common place for a person to suffer cardiac arrest—although the sport is relatively low-impact, 18 holes can take more than four hours. Make sure your clubhouse has a functioning Automated External Defibrillator (AED): A study Palank conducted in Florida, where he now lives, found that 100 percent of cardiac arrests on golf courses were fatal in the absence of an AED.
Aim for More Water. Dehydration is bad for your body and bad for your game. Swig water at least every other hole, especially on warm afternoons (about 12 ounces per side of the course). And don’t worry about sports drinks—plain old H2O will do the trick.
Ace Skin Protection. Even if you spend most of the time in the trees—fore!—be sure to slather on a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before leaving the house and liberally while on the course to keep harmful UVA and UVB rays at bay.
Get in the Zone. When talking about the yips—the nervousness that causes putters to miss easy shots—Palank quotes the late golf icon Bobby Jones: “Golf is a game of inches, mainly the six inches between your ears.” Back in the day, pros tried beta blockers to still their nerves—they didn’t help. Positive thinking will.
Stay Loose. A player’s driving distance and scoring potential declines with age. To gain power in your swing, focus on stretching and flexibility instead of strength training.