President Donald Trump played golf over the weekend, and whenever any president plays golf, it quickly devolves into a politically fraught issue. President Trump, for his part, said that he plays golf as his form of exercise. Leaving the politics of the matter aside, it’s worth answering the question of how much exercise you can actually get playing golf.
Before we go any further, it’s worth clarifying that it’s impossible to calculate the exact number of calories you may burn doing any of these things. It depends on all sorts of things, including the actual elevation of the course itself. Take these as ball-park numbers, which is what they’re intended to be:
Walking while carrying
No surprises here. 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.
Walking while pushing a cart
Interestingly, walking with a push cart, according to the same New York Times article, actually burns a similar amount of calories as carrying, albeit a fraction less. Maybe that’s why our social media editor Tim Reilly likes his push cart a little too much…
Walking with caddie
The simple act of walking and swinging, while employing a caddie to carry your sticks, is still a great form of exercise. A short blurb on Harvard’s website pegs that calories-burned figure at between 800 and 900 calories, but that article isn’t an official study itself and only quickly references unnamed “studies,” so it’s unclear what the exact number is, and could be closer to 1200 calories.
Riding a cart
Of course, while lots of golf snobs insist on walking only, doing so obscures three important factors:
First, carts are good for golf, as NPR reports here, because they create added revenue for courses themselves: They enable golf facilities “to get more people on the course and get them around the course faster,” Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation.
Second, carts allow the game to remain more inclusive to many elderly golfers who may enjoy golf but don’t possess the ability to walk 18 undulating holes.
And last but not least, because you’re still walking to and from (often elevated) tee boxes, and swinging your clubs, you still burn lots of calories playing golf with a cart — anywhere from between ~800 to 1,300, according to a WGF study.
It’s safe to say golf is a fantastic form of exercise, so whatever you choose, play lots of it!