Despite an ambiguous legal environment, the growing popularity for CBD among golfers is a microcosm of burgeoning public acceptance.
It’s a curious sight for longtime fans of one of the world’s oldest sports. Rich in pageantry and tradition, golf has ambiguous origins. Some historians trace the game to the Roman Empire, while others point to evidence of a Ming Dynasty record that testifies to modern golf’s basic mechanisms. Ironically, as the sport modernizes, it is again running into an abstruse environment.
Earlier this year, two-time Masters champion and crowd favorite Bubba Watson made what many considered a startling announcement: he signed a multi-year partnership with cbdMD, a North Carolina-based company that specializes in the manufacture of cannabidiol, or CBD for short. Later, Watson would be seen out on the greens, with cbdMD’s brand logo prominently displayed along the side of his cap.
Certainly, not everyone viewed Watson’s foray into the legal cannabis industry as a shock to the system. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans today favor marijuana legalization, while only 34% believe it should be illegal. At the turn of the century, these statistics were essentially flipped.
That said, legalization support is strongest among millennials and Generation Z, and wanes as you rise in age categorizations. According to Sports Business Daily, golf tends to attract an older, affluent and likely more conservative crowd. Typically, the target demo for golfing events is the baby boomer generation.
Thus, Watson’s endorsement of CBD is certainly a shot across the bow for the game’s vanguards. How will this impact the industry and the golfing community at large? Perhaps not as negatively as you might think.
CBD an Open Secret in Golf
When you consider the golden era of the game, names like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, and Sam Snead come quickly to mind. These legendary players not only moved the sport forward, but they did so with gentlemanly class and taste.
In other words, they would fit in at an exclusive wine-tasting event as much as they would putting for birdie. That said, generations change, and with it comes the evolution of social mores.
And with Watson’s partnership with cbdMD, the move has set a demarcation between legacy practices and a rising normal. No longer limited to crass or pejorative depictions and stereotypes, cannabis-based products have essentially penetrated one of the global sports’ few remaining conservative strongholds.
But perhaps the most significant element of this groundbreaking endorsement is that it publicly acknowledged what many golf insiders have known for some time: industry interest in cannabidiol and other hemp-derived therapies is booming.
Since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed cannabidiol from its list of banned substances, professional golfers were one of the first athletes to explore and gradually integrate CBD into their daily regimen. Because of its analgesic (anti-pain) and anti-inflammatory attributes, the botanical compound has obvious positive implications, especially for older golfers. In an interview with TheStreet, Watson acknowledged as such, stating:
“Just because of, I’m getting older…The inflammation in my body, waking up with better sleep. That was the two things I focused on. With a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old at the house, and playing golf all day, I needed some energy fast.”
Ironically, but not surprisingly, CBD has found fast support among senior golfers. According to ESPN and professionals from NugRepublic, the reason has to do with the difference between how senior players and the under-50 PGA Tour contenders are drug tested. Nevertheless, a defining catalyst for CBD use among golfers is the acceleration of the recovery process between games.
But irrespective of generational nuances, CBD is making an impact on all golfers. As confirmation, athletic solutions firm Functional Remedies EndoSport has 50 PGA Tour players who use its CBD-based products.
Risks and Rewards for Cannabidiol
Of course, no action is without some level of risk or opportunity cost, and cannabidiol is no different. Primarily, golfers worry about the legal ambiguities of CBD as it pertains to the sport’s governing body.
Because WADA removed cannabidiol from the banned substances list, professionals are free to use the product. However, an important caveat exists: all golfers are 100% responsible for what they put into their bodies. That a product was labeled as “0% THC,” or the psychoactive – and very much illegal – the compound of the marijuana plant, is no excuse.
That has caused other high-profile golfers, including Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, to be wary about the unintended consequences of taking CBD-infused solutions. As reported by Reuters, Spieth remarked:
“That stuff’s been kind of known to really help with what we do, you know, shins and feet and that kind of stuff and … helping to recover…Hemp’s not banned, but THC is, so it’s kind of a fine line there. It’s so early on where some of it has THC levels and some of it doesn’t.”
The concerns are understandable. According to ESPN, two-time PGA Tour winner Matt Every was suspended for 12 weeks. He tested positive for marijuana, although Everyone claims he received a medical prescription to use the substance to treat his mental health. Whatever the case, the incident demonstrates the risks involved in putting any substance – not just THC – into your body.
However, the legal cannabis and hemp-derived therapies market has also presented an opportunity in these choppy waters. Primarily, companies like cbdMD have an organic opportunity to educate the masses. With a prolific name like Bubba Watson, this job is much more feasible than it was a decade ago.
Although rooted in cannabis, not all retail cannabis products are the same. Most commonly, two formats of cannabidiol are widely distributed: full-spectrum and isolate. Full-spectrum CBD features both CBD and the cannabis plant’s myriad organic compounds (or cannabinoids) and terpenes (essential oils). However, full-spectrum does contain a trace amount of THC.
On the other hand, isolate CBD is a CBD extract: this format only contains cannabidiol and no other cannabinoids such as THC. While isolate CBD will allow a user to take a drug test with confidence, it doesn’t facilitate the “entourage effect” – the holistic benefit resultant from various cannabinoids working together symbiotically.
However, cbdMD specializes in a burgeoning format known as broad-spectrum. A best-of-both-worlds solution, broad-spectrum CBD features the entire array of cannabinoids, but without any THC. This is extremely valuable for golfers like Watson, who desire the cannabis plant’s comprehensive therapies but who must also submit themselves to regular testing.
As the concept of broad-spectrum CBD takes hold, by logical deduction, the public will view the legal cannabis market in a new light. Thus, we stand on the cusp of an extraordinary movement.
A Net Positive for CBD
Despite the complexities and granularity of cannabidiol and its broader legal narrative, the overall picture for CBD remains a net positive. Even with the ambiguity of substance enforcement in golf, just the fact that CBD is on display at the world’s most prominent golfing tournaments is an immeasurably valuable victory.
Moreover, cannabis therapy manufacturers are putting their brand and reputation on the line and winning in the process. After all, fewer people will be inclined to buy THC-free products if their sponsored athletes kept pinging positive for THC. This is no laboratory testing; instead, it’s a real-world examination with real-world consequences.
So far, the results have been massively impressive.
Ultimately, this augurs well for the retail CBD market. If sporting professionals and their multi-million dollar backers can put their trust in cannabidiol, it gives a world of confidence for the rest of us.