Health Benefits of Playing Golf

Often overlooked as just a hobby, playing golf offers a variety of health benefits no matter your level of fitness or age.  The health benefits of golf have largely been ignored over the game’s history but with the recent popularity of activity trackers and step counters, golf clearly should no longer be viewed as just a hobby.

This article will explore some of the main health benefits of playing golf, ways that you can incorporate golf fitness and golf-centric exercise into your overall fitness regimen, and some key tips on making golf a healthy activity for you.

Playing golf offers numerous health benefits beyond just the joy of the game itself. Golf is a low-impact sport that provides both physical and mental exercise. Engaging in regular rounds of golf can improve cardiovascular health, enhance muscle tone and endurance, and promote weight loss. The walking involved in golfing can burn calories and improve overall fitness levels. Additionally, the social aspect of golfing can contribute to mental well-being by reducing stress and fostering social connections. To optimize performance and prevent injuries, golf fitness programs tailored to specific muscle groups and movements involved in the golf swing are becoming increasingly popular among players of all levels. These programs focus on flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination, ultimately enhancing golf performance and reducing the risk of injury.


Top Health Benefits of Playing Golf

physical benefits of golf

The physical benefits of golf are many but here are some of the key areas where playing golf as part of an overall fitness routine can provide helpful benefits:


1. Physical Endurance

According to a 2021 New York Times article, a golfer walking 18 holes can burn more than 700 calories while covering somewhere in the neighborhood of six miles.  Factor in the typical golf course terrain featuring various elevations and our bodies surely benefit from the four to five-hour physical test.  Activities like walking 18 holes of golf can be instrumental in helping us reach our individual daily step goals that have proven to help prevent weight gain and complications like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes that can come along with it as we age.


2. Aerobic Exercise

One of the primary physical benefits of golf is that it can be an awesome low-impact activity to incorporate into your fitness routine.  Unlike playing basketball or training for a marathon where the chances of a lower-body injury can be high, golf is a low-impact activity that should be friendly to your knees, joints, and feet.

As we’ve begun to understand more about fitness training and the various zones of aerobic exercise, a round of golf, particularly a round where you are walking, could be a tremendous form of Zone 2 cardio training.  Also known as Low-impact aerobic training, Zone 2 cardio is typically an activity that can be done at a steady pace for an extended period.  There are numerous proven health benefits to Zone 2 training including building our foundational aerobic base, reducing blood pressure, improved longevity, injury prevention, and providing our bodies an excellent means of recovery from more strenuous exercise.


3. Flexibility

Flexibility and consistent range of motion are critical to playing decent golf and while not all of us are blessed with Adam Scott’s golf swing, the rotational movement of the swing asks the body to move in ways that it otherwise might not.  Maintaining our flexibility as we age is one of the key health benefits of golf because, unlike high-impact sports, the movements of golf can typically be performed safely well into old age.

In addition to the golf swing keeping us flexible, if we want to continue to play decent, injury-free golf as we age we will need to challenge our bodies to stay mobile and nimble off the golf course too.  We will discuss that later on in this article.


4. Hand-Eye Coordination

As we age our coordination tends to become more challenged.  One of the unique physical benefits of golf is that it presents an opportunity for our bodies to re-engage our hand-eye coordination in a way that few other sports do.  The motor control required to hit a golf shot is something that becomes more difficult as we age, however by practicing and playing golf we present our bodies and cognitive systems with a challenge they will gladly accept.


5. Mental Focus / Relaxation

For some golf can be a tool to sharpen their mental focus while for others it’s an escape to relax and enjoy their surroundings.  No matter your preference, there will be times when a consistent golf schedule helps to keep us sharp by staying focused on executing good shots and mentally locking in when a hole or round starts to get away from us.

There will be other days when simply enjoying being out in the sunshine and surrounded by nature is all it takes to help us feel mentally refreshed and recharged.  From a mental perspective, a round of golf can be whatever you want it to be however we find little sense in allowing the game to bring us negative energy.  Each time we tee it up, we should be treating it as an opportunity to enjoy nature and be thankful for this great game even when we aren’t playing our best.


Walking vs Riding

It’s inarguable that walking the golf course presents a greater challenge than riding in a cart.  As a round wears on, the steps add up and fatigue creeps in.  Being able to overcome those challenges and still play solid golf is a sign of overall fitness.  So while riding in a golf cart can be enjoyable and sometimes necessary on those hot, summer days, if you’re looking to maximize the physical benefits of golf it’s going to be beneficial to mix in some walking rounds.

riding in a golf cart

Looking to be extra healthy on the golf course?  Consider walking and carrying.  There is no greater health benefit of playing golf than walking while carrying your golf bag.  Per, “Walking while carrying your golf bag is the best form of exercise golf can offer. Walking 18 holes equals about four undulating miles, and doing that while swinging and carrying your bag probably pegs your total calories-burned number to around ~1,400, according to an experiment conducted by the Director of the Center for Health and Sport Science and reported on by the New York Times, and sometimes up to 2,000.”


Golf for the Long Term? Better to Stay Fit

golf fitness

Do you have a desire to continue to play golf as you age?  If so, it’s going to be imperative that you incorporate a variety of movements, strength training, and flexibility exercises into your life to ensure that you can play golf well and stay injury-free.  Fortunately for us, the concept of golf fitness has grown in popularity in recent years and its potential benefits can be fantastic for your long-term enjoyment of the game.

Not only will a regular schedule of golf fitness exercises keep your swing in mid-season form, but your body will also benefit from the golf course.  A proper golf swing is predicated on having good balance, a stable core, consistent posture, and, of course, muscular strength.  Performing such exercises will also be a boon to our off-course health and mobility.

Coaches and trainers specializing in golf fitness can easily be found online or in-person and offer golfers of all skill levels the opportunity to build a stronger, more flexible body and golf swing.  And who doesn’t want that?


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