Golf may not be the viewed as the most physical of pursuits, but there are still many health benefits to reap from 18 holes.
There’s long-standing evidence that playing golf regularly is associated with longevity and can assist in reducing the risk for heart disease/stroke. Now researchers and policy-makers are attempting to spread the word of the many other health pros to golfers, as well as non-golfers, to promote the gains of the game.
Ryder Cup, the biennial golf tournament between Europe and the US, has brought about a new consensus among experts aiming to assist experienced and novel golfers to take advantage of the proven health benefits of the sport.
25 public health experts and industry leaders participated in the discussions on health related benefits, following systematics reviews of 342 published studies of the subject, considering the factors that may help or hinder take-up of the sport. Following a plethora of new-founded initiatives launched worldwide, the statement also sets out to guide policy-makers and industry leaders on how to make golf more inclusive and accessible for all.
According to the report, evidence shows that golf, compared with other sports, is a low to moderate-risk sport in relation to injuries. Golf has also been proven to improve mental health as it is sociable and gets people outdoors, connecting with nature.
And it’s not only playing the game that has been proven beneficial from a health prospective. According to a study published last year of spectators at Paul Lawrie Match Play event at Archerfield Links, East Lothian, merely following from the sideline has significant benefits as well, resulting in an averaged of about 11,500 steps per day.
However, according to the consensus, the sport’s often-perceived image of a male dominant and exclusive activity is hampering its participation rate.
“The sport needs to be more inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, and any such initiatives should be supported,” the stamen reads.
“More people might be keen to take it up if golf were promoted as an enjoyable, lifelong outdoors activity that affords a sense of community and competitive challenge while providing some ‘me time’ as well as helping to fulfill recommended exercise quotas,”
“And the sport can do its bit for sustainability by “practices that prioritise diversity, healthy societies, connection with, and care of, the environment, environmental integrity and health and wellbeing.”
Among its raft of recommendations, the consensus statement says that:
- Should aim to play for 150 minutes/week, or do less, but couple golf with other physical activity, and walk the course rather than ride a golf cart
- Do warm-up/strengthening exercises to cut the risk of injury and use sun-cream and wear collared shirts/blouses to minimise the risk of skin cancer
- Make everyone feel welcome
- Build on existing initiatives to promote inclusivity and develop environments and price structures that will be attractive to everyone
- Develop a culture that will inspire more women and girls to play golf
- Make every effort to promote equality and diversity, and boost accessibility
- Promote sustainability through wildlife conservation and by restricting the use of water, energy, and pesticides
- Provide additional facilities at clubs, such as a gym, walking routes, crèches and improve the focus on health and safety, with the provision of healthy foods, defibrillators, and speed limiters on golf carts, for example
Policy makers should:
- Promote the benefits of regular physical activity, including golf, for people of all ages, genders, and income brackets
- Promote the specific health enhancing aspects of golf
- Support diversity, equality, and sustainability
- Work with industry and national associations to boost take up of the sport, particularly in groups where physical activity levels are low
- Work with industry and regulatory bodies to get golf included in the Paralympics