As we get ever more involved with the elite playing of the game, whether that be the Professional or Amateur game, or with the various issues that surround our game within the club environment, it is easy to forget what we’re out there to do. We normal, regular golfers are supposed to go out to have fun, and to do so in some just fantastic surroundings.
I’ve seen a tweet today from the European Tour’s Performance Institute (ETPI) that reminds me it’s really quite a bit more than how well or badly I’ve played. I’ve already fired that tweet into my social media bits, but it struck me that tweet was talking about an element of golf we don’t ever seem to talk about.
Golf has absolute massive health benefits. Those aren’t just physical benefits either. There can be significant mental health benefits too. For all the time and effort put into trying to bring more and more people into the game, the one thing no one ever talks about is that the damn game is really, really good for you.
It’s a game you can start to play at any time, even when all the other sports have given you up. It ticks boxes for the competitor, the socialite or just someone who wants to have a walk in beautiful places a couple of times a week in company with some buddies and have a good giggle doing it. At the same time you’re engaging in some pretty serious aerobic exercise. What could be better.
Let’s start with something pretty basic, and probably the best reason for anyone to play the game. Golfers live longer. That’s right, you can delay your appointment with the Grim Reaper by going out and getting in a few holes every week.
How does that work? Simple really. What does golf ask you to do? It asks you to take a 4 or 5 mile countryside walk, across a range of terrain, and to do so generally in the company of 2, 3 or 4 pals. When you hit a golf ball you are asked to make use of every major muscle group in your body. You spend 3 to 4 hours in fresh air, even if you’re playing a course in an urban environment.
Provided you’re walking the course (not using a buggy) you’re going to get in between 11,000 and 17,000 steps. The ETPI report that walking a golf course causes an individual to expend 4.8 METs, which are Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks. A MET measurement compares the level of energy expended in comparison to how much energy you use in a resting position. So walking a round of golf expends almost 5 times as much energy as sitting on the couch. That has its impact in the volume of calories expended. 1200 calories burnt in playing 18 holes. That seems quite a lot to me.
Interestingly even using a buggy there are health benefits, although inevitably not as many. Still 6000 steps, still almost 4 times better than sitting on the couch and you’ll still burn 600 calories.
And no numpty who can’t drive their monster 4×4 is going to knock you over. So much safer than cycling. I see folk my age attempting to run. They’re clearly having no fun at all, and may only be ensuring they make a good looking corpse, when they fall over with a heart attack. A friend of mine, with a physique not in as robust condition as mine, decided when he retired early at 56 last year that he would run to get fit. All he got was f….; well, another word beginning with f. He had to stop, because his body simply couldn’t take the pounding. And he now looks a whole heap better for the walking instead of the running.
Golf has hugely positive impacts on disease reduction too, with ETPI reporting between 20% and 40% reductions of the incidence of hip fractures, stroke, colonic or breast cancer, diabetes, depression and dementia amongst those who play golf compared to those who don’t.
And that last part on depression and dementia speaks for me to the issue of improving mental health. I can’t help thinking when I look at other forms of aerobic fitness work they are a bit solitary. OK, you can be in a gym and in company on an exercise bike or treadmill, but I’m not convinced about the levels of interaction. Strikes me folk are working so hard on the exercise bit they don’t have a lot of energy left for the interaction bit. Play golf, and you’ll have to interact. It still seems to be about the most personally interactive sporting activity you can play outside.
Because this is the bit we don’t talk about enough. Playing a game of golf gives you the opportunity to wander through often wonderful places, always a haven for wildlife and especially so in urban locations, and to spend your time in the company of a number of probably like-minded people with whom you can talk, banter or put the world to rights. It is, basically, good for the soul and the self, in a way that no other sport, game or pastime truly can be.
It is true that golfers and the golf club are becoming demographically older. But, in this instance, this is not a bad thing. That more and more of the retired population are playing the game is good for them, their health and their life expectancy. Even more it is good for them as people, as they develop a support network, a group of friends and acquaintances, who look out for them, spend time with them, are there to help when things go wrong, there to celebrate when things go well.
Many times in my career in the game I have seen someone lose a life-partner but be able to cope and to move on thanks to their friends in golf. I’ve seen that support network support and overcome during periods of illness. I’ve seen people given months to live survive years because of their involvement in playing the game and with their friends who still play the game, even when perhaps they no longer can.
Golf is the best game there is because you can play it for all of your life. And it is the best game there is because it will make your life longer and keep you healthier whilst you live it.
We need to say that more.