When Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were spotted at the 2019 Masters using what many suspected was CBD oil, it caused a little furor in the golf world. To be fair, Phil does look a little shifty.

This is not Dazed and Confused, people. Relax. (Be a lot cooler if it were.) CBD is many things — including golf’s new controversial darling — but it won’t get you high. So what is it? What does it do? Why are top golfers from Woods and Mickelson to Bubba Watson and Morgan Hoffman turning into CBD devotees? And do you want to be like them and use CBD, too? All solid questions. First things first.

What’s in it: CBD vs. THC

Hemp and marijuana belong to the same species of plant: cannabis sativa. By legal definition, a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC, the cannabinoid that creates a psychoactive, intoxicating effect, is classified as hemp. Cannabis plants with a THC concentration of 0.3% or higher are considered marijuana. (Don’t let anyone sell you hemp if you want to get high.)

What hemp plants do is pack a big punch of the cannabinoid CBD, which is non-psychoactive and doesn’t give you the munchies. Its fans swear it can:

  • Reduce pain
  • Relax muscle spasms
  • Relieve inflammation
  • Relieve nausea and vomiting
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve sleep

‘I’m not a doctor, but I play golf on TV.’

If your doctor is like most, they won’t tell you to use CBD. So we’ll defer to the guys we actually listen to.

Two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson says, “After a tough day on the course, I want to be able to get better sleep and let the inflammation in my body go down. I’m a believer in [CBD].”

Morgan Hoffman is also a believer. The 30-year-old pro was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2016. While using CBD, “I haven’t had any injuries, my body feels good, and my brain is clear. I’m more stable and calm on the course.”

Scott McCarron, who plays on the PGA Tour Champions, has virtually kicked his traditional anti-inflammatory fix. “You would take Advil like candy sometimes, not knowing the effects or what it could do to your kidney and liver,” he says. “Taking a little bit of Advil or Aleve, that’s fine, but if you’re depending on it to function every day, that’s a problem.”

As a three-time PGA Tour winner Lucas Glover has earned himself some nagging pains and an unhealthy dose of anxiety. It’s easy to understand Glover’s high stress level in 2019 when he posted seven top-10 finishes, his best season in more than a decade.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I’m sleeping better and I feel like my recovery is better. As far as my overall health, I feel great,” Glover says.

“It definitely feels like it’s got a bit of a calming factor,” says Andrew Stephens, 2018 Kentucky PGA Section champion. “I feel like it’s lowering anxiousness, especially before a round of golf. … Whether that’s real or placebo, I’m not sure.”

Consider the Science 

Before you dose yourself with CBD drops, gum, lotion or bath bombs, remember: these are golfers, not doctors. And some, like McCarron, is endorsed by CBD companies. Beyond all the hype, is CBD effective?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of CBD. Recent research also indicates that CBD can be effective for treating chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety and other conditions that can impact your golf game — and your life.

A study in the European Journal of Pain, for example, found that topical CBD can lower pain and inflammation related to arthritis in mice. This is one of the big reasons that Tiger Woods uses CBD (the arthritis part, not the mouse part). He’s endured multiple knee and back surgeries and developed arthritis, which crippled him on the course. Finding CBD so effective for pain management, he launched his own line of products.

Avoiding the Clink, Pain-Free!

You can extract CBD from both hemp and marijuana plants. Here’s why that’s important: CBD products that are derived from marijuana plants can contain THC at levels higher than 0.3%. Under federal law, CBD is legal only if it contains less than 0.3% THC. In some states, only hemp-extracted CBD is legal. (Find your state.) Another reason why this matters: having THC in your system means you fail drug tests. This is a concern, obviously, for pro golfers and other athletes, as well as those who are subject to workplace testing.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) dropped CBD from its list of restricted substances, though all other cannabinoids remain prohibited in competition. The PGA Tour is still skeptical. While it does not ban CBD, the Tour sent players a warning, saying, “The FDA, DEA and private organizations including Major League Baseball (MLB), have conducted tests on CBD and ‘THC-free’ products only to find significant levels of psychoactive (and prohibited) THC or falsely labeled amounts of CBD.”

When Morgan Hoffman informed the Tour he was going to use CBD, he was told to “be careful about the source of the product,” and if you don’t test clean, “that’s on you.” To date, no Tour pros have tested positive for THC while using CBD.

Might Be Worth a Shot

As with anything, know what you’re putting into your body so you can get more out of it. Be selective, folks.

Products from companies like Limitless Recover, for example, have virtually 0% THC and are safe for use in drug-testing environments. If you’re going to use CBD gum, edibles, creams, ointments, lotions, tinctures or capsules, make sure to put quality and safety first.

Will CBD make you a God at the golf club? No. Not a chance. Sorry to disappoint you if you thought that’s where we were going with this.

Will it save you from popping endless Advil for your knees, keep your back from seizing up, or stop you from losing sleep over a crappy round? Maybe so — and this could be the edge you’re looking for.