Golf can be played from the age of four to 104, in the fresh air in the great outdoors, in many different forms and even indoors too. It is a form of exercise, as well as boosting mental well-being in a social environment. Even following your favourites by walking at golf events is good for you.
While such facts are well-known to golfers, since 2016 The R&A has worked hard to further communicate golf’s health benefits to a global audience – including non-golfers – and underline the role the sport plays in health and social wellbeing.
In doing so, they have sought to: raise awareness of the health benefits of golf to encourage interest in participation by people of all ages and abilities; improve the sport’s image; and increase advocacy for golf by government agencies and public health bodies.
Working with the likes of the World Health Organization (WHO), the DP World Tour, the Golf & Health Project, other golf organisations and respected sports medics like Dr Andrew Murray, The R&A has been involved in new scientific research in the following areas:
- sponsoring the First International Congress on Golf and Health in London in 2018 and delivering an International Consensus Statement on Golf and Health
- the sole funder of a Strength and Balance Study
- supporting a Spectator Study
- supporting activity to highlight golf’s benefits during the Covid-19 pandemic
What are the Health Benefits of the Research?
- On average, golfers live five years longer than non-golfers
- Golf, as a physical activity, can help prevent and treat 40 major chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, breast and colon cancer, depression and dementia
- Golf can be played by people of all ages and abilities, including with disability
- Golf can help strength and balance, improve quality of life and provide aerobic exercise (equivalent to gym-based work or yoga)
- Golf provides social interaction, a significant protective factor for mental health
- Golf can help reduce health costs and add value to health systems via social prescription
- On a regular 18-hole course, most players will walk between four and five miles, burning up to 2,000 calories
- In a 9-hole round, most players will walk two to three miles and take over 5,000 steps
- If you play golf for at least 150 minutes per week you are meeting WHO global exercise guidelines
- Spectators walk between 5-6 miles on average and burn more than 1,000 calories per day
By maximising the uptake, use and impact of scientific research, it has been consistently highlighted that golf is a health-enhancing activity. Since 2016, this has been communicated via various ways:
- at The Open, AIG Women’s Open and leading amateur championships
- in a comprehensive R&A Golf and Health Report (2016-2020) for global use and translated into Chinese and Japanese
- raising awareness with global government ministers/ heads of state, national federations and bodies such as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf (UK)
- global media coverage across print, online and broadcast platforms
- robust research, data and key findings have been regularly published in the world-leading international journal, the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), to support the principle that golf can lead to greater health and wellness benefits for participants and spectators attending events
“The scientific research clearly shows that there are significant physical and mental health benefits to be gained from playing golf. We believe that golf can provide a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to have fun, get fit and socialise with family and friends – something that is important to today’s society. “We need to position golf as a leisure pursuit that can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone and encourage advocacy for the sport as a moderate intensity physical activity by government agencies, public health bodies and health professionals.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A
“Research has shown that golfers live up to five years longer than people who don’t play golf. What is more important than being healthy? I think we should take time for golf. Together with the researchers and doctors, we’re trying to tell policy makers, ‘hey, pay attention to golf. It should be part of your programmes; golf should be top of your list as it is benefitting health.”