Golfers, who often play into their retirement years, use CBD to treat mental and physical pains just like any other consumer might.
By Andrew Ward
Professional golf is one of, if not the most, cannabis-friendly globally played sports today. While Olympians and athletes in other sports continue to be suspended for cannabis use, several pro golfers and the Professional Golf Association (PGA) have largely embraced CBD and its $2.8 billion global market value.
Still, skepticism remains as the bond between pro golf and CBD seems to forge stronger over time.
Several top names in CBD and golf have come together in recent years. cbdMD, Inc.boasts an array of athletes, including two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, who partnered with the company in 2019. Cativa CBD added 2009 tour Rookie of the Year, Marc Leishman, as a global spokesperson that year as well.
The deals were announced despite the PGA telling Marijuana Moment that it had warned players about CBD use in April 2019.
Kadenwoodand its athlete-centric brand Level Select added 2015 Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler as a brand ambassador in 2020. In 2021, Catriona Matthews OBE signed on as a brand ambassador for the UK’s Golfers CBD brand.
Erick Dickens, Kadenwood CEO and co-founder, said that Fowler is one of several athlete partnerships “that illustrate the brand’s commitment to integrating CBD into the mainstream sports world.”
Some are taking their involvement further. Ten-year LPGA pro, Amelia Lewis became an investor and vice president of CBD brand Zeal Pure — a brand operated by her mother. Others include Darren Clarke, 2011 Open Championship winner, who launched his Darren Clarke CBD brand in July 2021.
The PGA tour also got involved, with PlusCBD Oil, a CV Sciences, Inc company, announced as the January 2020 Farmers Insurance Open sponsor. The PGA also agreed to a three-year partnership, sponsorship and education deal with European CBD brand Cannaraythat year.
Why Golfers And The Professional Tours Turn To CBD
Golfers often use CBD to treat mental and physical pains like any other consumer might.
Alan Rownan, head of sports at Euromonitor International, said that the profile of an average golfer is an athlete often playing into their retirement years, setting it apart from most other sports. He said the purported benefits address long-term symptoms faced by golfers as they age.
He added that CBD acceptance plays into the sport’s recent initiative to grow the game. “From a marketing standpoint, this revolves around how to become more progressive,” he stated.
Still, he said the sport’s CBD connection must grow to meet the sponsorship footprint made by finance and insurance sponsorships, which Euromonitor reports are above 10% of deals across the global tours. Consumer health accounted for just 1%.
Despite the growing acceptance among many in the sport and global governing bodies, like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), some remain uncertain.
PGA professional, Will Shaw, is a UK-based Ph.D. in biomedical science and founder of Golf Insider UK’s performance center.
He said golf “becomes a game of if they can control their arousal, anxiety and thought process to execute when it counts,” and that CBD is marketed as a product capable of facilitating those outcomes.
Shaw remains “highly cautious” over a lack of clinical scientific studies. He’d like to see more analysis on the short- and long-term effects CBD has on golfers.
“When you dig into the references, you’ll notice they are either solely 1) golf performance studies or 2) clinical CBD studies,” he stated. Until he sees peer-reviewed research directly applied to golfers, Shaw says he’ll remain skeptical.
Shaw reports that UK golf bodies are pushing for CBD use. “I personally receive one to two emails a week for CBD placements on my own website,” Shaw added.
Anecdotally, he doesn’t recall any top-tier pros using CBD despite some marketing products.
“I could be wrong, but I feel the sponsorship deals with more elite players are there to try to sell this to the mass market of everyday players, rather than this being for elite players,” he opined.
There are some anecdotal use cases from pro golfers. In 2020, Billy Horschel, winner of the 2021 World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event, told the New York Times that he is convinced CBD helped him break a six-month streak without a top-eight finish on tour. After using CBD, Horschel finished in the top-eight four times over four months.
Horschel’s website lists partnerships with Ralph Lauren Corp, Velocity Global and Titleist, among others.