5 weight-loss diets of pro golfers who shed more than 20 pounds

Phil Mickelson fasts for 36 hours per week

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Welcome to Play Smart, a game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen to help raise your golf IQ and play smarter, better golf.

It’s the time of the year when everybody’s thinking about getting a little healthier and dropping a few pounds we gained during the holiday season. I include myself in that camp, and because my mind is never too far from golf, my thoughts wandered to the various golfers we’ve seen shed a noticeable number of pounds over the years. How did they do it? And does it present an opportunity to glean some advice for our own purposes?

Let’s take a look.

1. Jack Nicklaus

When Jack first arrived on tour he was derided by fans as “Fat Jack” — which, truthfully, had more to do with his on-course rivalry with fan favorite Arnold Palmer than his body type.

Nicklaus steadily lost weight over the ensuing years, but really trimmed up in 1969, when he adopted the Weight Watchers diet, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

“A friend of mine had just used the Weight Watchers diet, I said, ‘Let me try your diet,’” he said. “I put on my shorts and a pair of golf shoes and went to the golf course with four or five clubs. I would hit and run around the golf course.

That diet-and-running combo, Nicklaus said, helped him drop from 210 pounds to about 190 pounds.

2. Jason Dufner

Jason Dufner shed a quick 20 pounds back in 2015 by cutting out most gluten and a series of junk food items: No fast food, chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, processed food, alcohol and soda. He looked great, but he didn’t feel that way at first.

“The first five days sucked,” Dufner said at the time. “I felt terrible. I laid in bed for five days, literally. Headaches and not feeling good. But trying to get all that toxin out of you.”

3. John Daly

On the other end of the clean living spectrum is John Daly, who adopted a diet that literally nobody else should (or, frankly, could): The whisky, popcorn, cigarette diet. 

Told by his collage coach he was overweight, Daly spent two-and-a-half months drinking Jack Daniels, eating popcorn and puffing Marlboros to curb his appetite when neither of those would suffice. He lost 67 pounds.

(Seriously though, please don’t do this).

4. Gary Woodland

Settling somewhere back in the middle, 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland dropped almost 30 pounds by cutting out two things: No fried food, and less sugar.

“I’m getting a little older, being out here, hanging around Justin Thomas and all these young guys, I need to take care of myself if I want to be here for a lot longer,” he said.

5. Phil Mickelson

Finally, there’s Phil Mickelson. A habitual yo-yo dieter who hit his stride in his 50s. He’s kept the weight off, too. How? By intermittent fasting. Phil says he fasts for a 36 consecutive hours every week, which helps “reset” his body.

“I wasn’t educated,” Phil told me ahead of the 2020 U.S. Open. “I either wasn’t aware or didn’t want to know the things I was putting in my body, whether it was diet soda and how toxic that is, or whether it was the amount of sugar and how much inflammation it causes, or whether it was the quantity; all of those things, I just kind of shut my eyes to.”

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Director of Service Journalism at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.