Pros like Rory and JT are wearing Whoop. Can it help your golf game?

Justin Thomas Whoop

Pros like Rory and JT are wearing Whoop. Can it help your golf game?

Equipment

Pros like Rory and JT are wearing Whoop. Can it help your golf game?

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After Rory McIlroy defeated Xander Schauffele at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, the two exchanged high-fives and a few words on the green. Rory’s white Nike shirt had a black swoosh on it and Schauffele’s blue shirt was adorned with a black Adidas logo, but each player also wore a black, logo-free band around his right wrist.

Back in April, during the final match of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Maria Fassi had worn a similar-looking white band. Justin Thomas wore a blue one when he won the CJ Cup in October, and Scott McCarron had one on when he captured the Charles Schwab Cup in November.

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The device is a Whoop 3.0 strap, and while none of those stars are paid to use it, Whoop is gaining in popularity and has become the fitness tracker of choice for elite golfers. With lots of people making New Year’s resolutions to improve their fitness and play better golf in 2020, is Whoop right for you?

Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy

Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy wearing Whoop 3.0 straps. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

What is Whoop?

Wearable devices have been around for years and lots of people like wearing Apple watches, Samsung watches and FitBits because they count your steps, track the calories you burn, measure your heart rate and notify you when your smartphone receives a text message. Using third-party apps, some wearables can provide yardages to the hole and hazards on the course, keep score and track golf stats.

Whoop was founded in 2012 by Will Ahmed, a former captain of the Harvard University squash team, because he was interested in learning more about how hard athletes should train, how they can effectively recover after practices and competitions and how much sleep they needed.

As a result, Whoop takes a different approach than other wearables. It does not have a screen, does not show the time and does not vibrate. Looking at it will not tell you a thing. However, pairing it with your smartphone and opening the Whoop app can reveal highly detailed information about how hard your body is working, the quality of your sleep and how recovered you are from the previous day.

Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas wearing a Whoop 3.0 strap during the 2019 Presidents Cup. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Why Whoop appeals to pro golfers

The Whoop strap holds a small electronic sensor that measures your heart rate over 100 times per second. Instead of tracking steps, it measures the amount of strain that your body endures throughout the day from things like exercise, stress and anxiety. Using sophisticated algorithms, it learns how efficiently your heart and body are working and how much strain you should take on based on how recovered you are after resting.

Rickie Fowler wears a Whoop bracelet while posing for pictures with fans at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Lahaina, Hawaii on Jan. 1, 2020. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

Whoop’s performance marketing manager, A.J. Baker, feels that the information Whoop collects can be especially useful to plane-hopping, fitness-minded athletes like McIlroy, Schauffele, Thomas and Scott Stallings, who has used a Whoop for over two years. Golf requires a combination of physical skills, mental focus and concentration. There is pressure to practice and grind away on the range, and while practice is necessary, golfers, like other athletes, sometimes don’t listen to what their bodies are telling them.

“Think about a professional golfer’s week. Starting on Sunday, after finishing a round, a pro has got to get somewhere else on either a red-eye flight or early the next morning so he can play in practice rounds and pro-ams,” Baker said. “A lot of guys who wear Whoop are seeing the (recovery) effects of taking a red-eye flight, and now most of them won’t take that flight. You might feel a difference that you can push through, but the system really highlights how bad those things are for you.”

Aside from adjusting their travel habits, Baker said a lot of players have tailored their off-course training plans and workloads based on Whoop findings to ensure they are rested and fresh for Thursdays, Fridays and the weekend. Golfers are using Whoop straps to learn how hard they can push themselves and discover their ideal combination of activity, nutrition and rest.

Whoop 3.0 strap

Sliding the battery pack over the strap charges the device while you wear it. (Whoop)

The strap is waterproof and a fully-charged battery lasts about four to five days. However, because the strap is meant to be worn 24 hours a day, Whoop developed a very clever system to recharge the unit. Instead of taking it off and plugging in the strap to a charger, you plug in a small battery pack, charge the pack, and then slide it over the strap to add power while it’s on your wrist.

The elastic band that holds the unit in place is very thin and has a texture on the inside to help reduce sliding. Worn about an inch above your wrist, it does not impede your golf swing. There are also bicep straps available if you don’t want to wear Whoop on your wrist.

What I learned that could help you

It takes about a week for Whoop to start giving your meaningful data. Once it has learned how your heart and body handle exercise, the stress of your day and your sleep patterns, it starts to make recommendations. Here’s what I learned:

Whoop data

My average daily Strain in December was 9.1, so after a strong Recovery percentage on the 14th, I was ready to take on more Strain. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

  • What time is it? Whoop does not have a display, so if you wear the strap instead of your watch, as I did for a month, you will need to look at your phone or find clocks to tell the time. Wearing my watch on one hand and the Whoop strap on the other felt odd at first, but after about a week I got used to it.
  • Just one or two drinks can ruin your recovery. After recording good recovery scores for several days, I had two drinks at a holiday party in late December. The following day my recovery score was 29 percent. I wasn’t hungover and felt fine, but the system revealed that my body was not ready for a big workout or excessive strain.
  • Not all sleep is the same. Getting enough sleep is important, but the quality of my sleep was just as important. I recorded my highest recovery scores, 97 percent, twice, when I slept an hour less than Whoop recommended. On each night, however, I slept deeply. I had taken Melatonin on each of those nights, so I learned that when I really needed rest, popping a Melatonin tablet helped me.
  • Soreness from working out is avoidable. From mid-November through December I avoided exercising significantly over the Strain Coach feature’s recommendations. I lifted weights, took a few Spinning classes and spent time on the elliptical trainer and  never woke up feeling overly tired or sore. I never overdid it, I consciously tried to improve my recovery by getting more sleep and felt better.
  • The device is free, but you still pay for it. Whoop gives users a strap for free when they commit to paying for a six-month membership to the mobile app at $30 per month. That’s $180, and if you don’t extend the membership to the app, the strap is worthless. Twelve and 18-month membership commitments can reduce your monthly costs, but this level of sophistication is not free.

So can wearing a Whoop 3.0 strap help your performance on the course? Maybe. It will not help you fade a 6-iron over a bunker to a tucked hole location, but if you take tournament season seriously and want to be physically at your best on specific days, Whoop can teach you how hard to train and how to recover wisely, and that might help you save a few strokes.

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