The importance of maintaining mental as well as physical health while competing in elite level golf is being highlighted at this month’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, which has taken a pioneering step of introducing a Mental Fitness and Recovery Zone.
The Zone will be introduced for the first time as part of the DP World Tour 2024 calendar as the Emirates Golf Club prepares to welcome the elite golfers for the Rolex Series Event, which runs from January 18-21.
During visits to the Zone, players can prioritise self-care, manage mental pressure, and maintain focus in the mental fitness area – a new facility addition at HDDC for the golfers while they can also work towards sustaining peak performance levels in the physical fitness recovery zone.
Located within SENSASIA Urban Spa at the iconic Emirates Golf Club, the Zone will help provide a positive boost for players’ mindset for the round ahead as well as outside of the golf course, with access to services and consultations to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
The introduction of the Mental Fitness and Recovery Zone comes at a vital time when the DP World Tour is focusing on improving all Tour players’ mental wellbeing as well as physical fitness while promoting a healthy lifestyle. It fully aligns with the HDDC’s commitment to looking after players’ welfare, equipping them with the tools to manage stress, enhance focus and perform at their best during the tournament.
Mental wellbeing has become an increasingly important topic in society, especially in sport. Sports, including golf are known to have overall mental health and well-being benefits, but professional sport can be very demanding of mental health. Evidence is consistent and growing that athletes across sports suffer the same or greater levels of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder as the general public and this is mirrored by research in golf.
A survey conducted by the University of Edinburgh with the European Tour group in 2020 for its men’s Challenge Tour players found a two-week prevalence for obsessive thoughts (13.8%), depression (10.3%), and anxiety (8.6%). It also showed that 67% of players who had experienced a mental health issue did not seek professional help at the time.
Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Hero Dubai Desert Classic, said: “Good mental and physical health are equally vital for peak performances in any sport and golf is no different. Playing competitively for long durations can certainly be challenging and can have an impact on their minds and bodies which is why the Mental Fitness and Recovery Zone has been created to provide invaluable support for players during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic 2024.
“This is not only an opportunity for the players to take their game to the next level but also enable players to seek help for stress, anxiety or depression – all confidentially – and our aim is to inspire other events and tournaments across the region and beyond to incorporate similar mental fitness and recovery initiatives, fostering a more holistic approach to sports performance.”
The new Zone is available to all players before and during the tournament, and will provide essential resources, including a mental fitness training and an activity lounge, seven sleep chambers, a dedicated space to relax with guided breathing techniques and mindfulness, as well as nourishing brain boosting foods – available in the Players’ Lounge for the first time.
Additionally, the players will also be able to benefit from a virtual reality experience to further support their visualisation, as well as opportunities to have one-on-one consultations with doctors for those golfers who require further mental wellbeing support.
Dr/Prof Andrew Murray, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer, DP World Tour, and Sport and Exercise, University of Edinburgh, said: “The Hero Dubai Desert Classic and the DP World Tour have been at the forefront of putting in place facilities, that can help optimise health and performance in professional golf. Things that we have instigated together including top quality gym, athletic catering, and recovery aids like ice baths have followed consultation with players and have been rolled out as business as usual across Rolex Series events, and feature at golf’s majors.
“2024 will see us install a Mental Fitness and Recovery Zone. This will be massive in helping our players, caddies and support staff optimise their mental fitness and support mental health and well-being, and features sleep pods, Augmented Reality, next generation ice baths, and access to professionals skilled in mental health and well-being. In addition the Tour continues to provide a well-being toolkit, access to medical support each week, and a confidential 24/7 mental health hotline”
Dr Margo Mountjoy, a prominent clinician scientist is among the medical professionals who have highlighted the importance of mental health, saying: “Players should feel empowered and nurtured both physically and mentally. Mental health and physical health are a priority in supporting optimal golf performance.”