Whether you’ve tried it for yourself or not, you’ve no doubt heard of CBD by now. The natural compound known as “cannabidiol,” derived from hemp cannabis sativa plants, has taken the natural health supplements market by storm. Experts say the up-and-coming industry could eclipse $22 billion in 2019 alone, after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill effectively legalized the substance in all 50 states at the federal level (as long as it contains .3% or less THC). Ranging from food and drink additives, raw oils and tinctures, to lotions, topicals, vapes and pet-friendly items, CBD products tout a variety of health and wellness benefits to better just about every aspect of your life — your golf game included.
With steady supply and growing demand in place, CBD purveyors have moved on to finding footholds in a number of markets in a big way, and the golf industry seems to be ripe for the picking. Bubba Watson became the first mainstream PGA Tour pro to openly endorse a CBD company earlier this year, with a number of other pros following suit, and rumors and videos have surfaced of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are using CBD products during tour events (though neither player has confirmed doing so). CBD products are popping up in pro shops across the country, and making headlines in major publications regularly, too. The opportunities seem so great it has some companies going all in with golf-specific CBD products, flooding social media with “influencer” endorsements and ads to gain their share of the market.
And it seems to be working.
“I believe in CBD 100 percent,” says Jeff Mayhall, a PGA teaching pro based in Fort Worth, Texas, who was struggling with chronic back pain. “I used to be a skeptic until I tried it for the first time. Now I can only describe it as ‘life changing.'”
Mayhall traces his back issues to playing and learning the game in the ’80s and ’90s, before equipment makers began incorporating more forgiving technology into golf clubs and balls, and believes the same goes for most players in his age group and older. “You had to learn how to swing a certain way just to get those old golf balls in the air,” he says, “How many hip surgeries did Jack Niklaus have? … Tiger played in that era too and look what he went through. That’s where a lot of that joint pain comes from.”
Among the many purported health benefits of CBD, natural joint pain and muscle soreness relief — without the harmful side effects that come with traditional pharmaceuticals — are among the top selling points for aging golfers. In a recent in-depth Golf Digest report exploring the relationship between CBD and golf, the author notes “a sense that CBD is seen as a critical asset” for players in older generations because of those anti-inflammatory properties. With fewer aches and pains caused by on course wear and tear, older players are likely to remain active in the game — and spend money — for a longer period of time.
“It’s hopefully going get those people who are thinking they have to give up golf stay in the game longer — even helping them come back from an injury,” Mayhall says.
At 41 years old, Mayhall says he reached the point of having tried “anything and everything” to subdue his chronic back pain outside of invasive surgery. “I was ready to accept that I was going to feel awful for the rest of my life, and that golf couldn’t be a priority for me anymore,” he says. “Now I feel like my opportunities are endless.”
For Mayhall, it all started with better sleep, though, his back pain wasn’t relieved overnight. “I could feel pressure points in my back that needed to pop, but I couldn’t get them because of all the inflammation,” he says. “A few days later I was standing at the counter, turned around to pick something up, and felt all that pressure release at once. Ever since then I haven’t had any back pain and I know it’s because of the CBD.”
The benefits of CBD aren’t exclusive to the older generations of players, either. The substance’s anti-inflammatory properties aid in muscle recovery for younger and more competitive athletes too, and brings another wealth of psychological benefits along with it — like better focus and less anxiety — that can boost any player’s overall performance.
“I feel the most normal I’ve felt in years,” Mayhall says. “After my experience [with CBD], I really wanted to get more involved.” Aside from teaching golf, Mayhall is now a brand ambassador and salesperson for Hēl-Zal™ CBD Products**, and helping others find the right products for them. “I’m a walking billboard for CBD, I believe in it so much,” he says.
The CBD industry still has a number of hurdles to overcome as lawmakers scramble to figure out if, how, and to what extent CBD products will be regulated. And given its ties to the other, more controversial cannabis product, THC, many financial institutions, internet and marketing platforms still bar CBD companies from using their services. Last but not least, the industry still faces the ever-present stigma tied to cannabis, something Mayhall thinks will take awhile to overcome. Nonetheless, the industry’s exponential growth continues with no signs of letting up, and it’s making a strong case that it’s good for the game.
**Disclaimer: Hel-Zal CBD Products is a sponsor of the 2019 CGB Tournament Series, the company also employs the author of this story for internet services.