Added on June 6, 2017
Spring is finally in the air, which could only mean one thing: the Masters. This year, as I watched Sergio outlast Justin Rose on an unbelievably difficult course, I was reminded of how much of a workout golf really is. Many don't consider golf to be a sport, and for those that do, they think of it as the "lazy old-man's game." Although there is this stigma, playing golf can actually improve a player's general health and wellness.
Today, seldom do you see amateurs walking the golf course like the professionals do. Yes, golf carts can help speed up a round, but ultimately may be hurting your health and game. Neil Wolkodoff, the Medical Director at the Colorado Center of Health and Sport Science, ran a study on eight middle-aged, male golfers to determine the total energy expenditure of getting around the course. He compared golfers who carried their bag, pulled their bag on a pull cart, walked the course using a caddy, and finally those who rode in a golf cart. The results determined that those who carried their clubs while playing golf burned an average of 721 calories per nine holes. Pulling your bag and playing burned an average of 718 calories, playing with a caddy burned 613 calories, while playing and riding in a cart burned an average of 411 calories per nine holes. These numbers demonstrate that walking while playing golf could have the greatest health benefits.
Another study performed by Kobriger et al., analyzed the average number of steps taken during 18 holes. Golfers who walked the course walked an average of 11,948 steps, which alone easily puts someone on track to meet the Center of Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) goal for Americans to walk 150 minutes a week1, 2.
Another study performed by Sell et al., examined the distance golfers walked when carrying their bags as compared to when they walked with a pull cart or played while riding in a cart. Not surprisingly, golfers who carried their bags while playing walked an average of 8.69km (5.4 miles), those who played with a pull cart walked 7.89km (4.9 miles) and those who rode in a cart walked 3.86km (2.4 miles)4. Moreover, Wolkodoff's study found that when golfers played with a pull cart, players averaged the lowest score (40) on nine holes. The remaining player scores were as follows: a golfer with a caddy (42), a player who took a cart (43), and a golfer that carried his clubs (45)3, 5. This supports that not only will walking the course with a pull cart benefit one's health by taking extra steps, but it could help lower one's score as well. Wolkodoff's study shows that walking a golf course, in lieu of riding in a cart, has health benefits and could burn up to 600 calories more during an 18 hole round.
If you were to change nothing else in your life besides walking the golf course, and if you played golf four days a week, then you could potentially lose a pound a week. Additionally, these articles favor walking the course because it can potentially result in lower scores. So next time you go out and play, I urge you to reconsider riding in a cart, carry your clubs and walk the course instead. Even a few extra steps a week can make for a healthier lifestyle.
If you have any pain stopping you from making golf your new workout or to see if you are at risk for lower back pain caused by your particular golf swing, book an appointment at Ivy Rehab today.
Kevin Dishon, PT, DPT
Ivy Rehab in Hoboken, NJ
1. Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Why Walk? Why not! Center of Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/. 5/23/16. 4/10/17.
2. Kobriger, S. L., Smith, J., Hollman, J. H., & Smith, A. M. (2006). The contribution of golf to daily physical activity recommendations: How many steps does it take to complete a round of golf? Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 81(8), 1041-1043.
3.PGA Tour Staff. Golf is good for you, says new study of its demands. Associated Press/ PGA Tour. http://www.pgatour.com/news/2008/12/22/golfap.print.html. 12/22/08. 4/10/17.
4. Sell, T. C., Abt, J. P., Lephart, S. M. (2008) Physical activity-related benefits of walking during golf. Science and Golf V: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf.128-132.
5. Wolkodoff, N. (2008). Rose Center for Health and Sciences. University of Colorado.