Golf provides ‘significant health benefits’ to older players, new study reveals

Two golfers smile for camera

According to a new study, older golfers can receive numerous health benefits by sticking with the game.

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Non-golfers might respond with eye-rolls to any suggestion that the game of golf provides participants with quality exercise, especially compared to other sports. But according to a new research study supported by the R&A, golf is not only a good form of exercise, it can significantly improve quality of life for older golfers in a host of different ways.

Over the course of two years, duel research teams at the University of Southampton in England and the University of Southern California studied the effects of playing golf on older participants. The result is the “The Strength and Balance Study,” which concluded that golf provides numerous “strength and balance benefits” to older golfers.

Two golfers smile for camera

Golf provides ‘significant health benefits’ to older players, new study reveals

The two research groups went about things slightly differently. Researchers at Southampton studied 152 people 65 and older to “demonstrate the physical and psychosocial benefits associated with playing recreational golf regularly by comparing physical measures between older golfers and sedentary non-golfers.”

Scientists at USC, on the other hand, tracked 15 individuals to find “if non-golfers developed these benefits while undertaking a 10-week instructional golf training programme.”

The results were quite conclusive: golf is good for your health. But let’s get into specifics.

Among the most interesting findings was that golf provided numerous strength and balance benefits to the participants studied when compared to “sedentary non-golfers.” Why is that important? The World Health Organization recommends strength and balance exercises to fight inactivity in older people.

Additionally, the studies demonstrated that “the physical demands recorded during a golf round were equivalent or greater than the demands for other common activities e.g. gym work or yoga.” So that should help quiet those judgy non-golfers.

Finally, the study found evidence that participants received mental health benefits as well from increased access to “green space,” i.e. spending time outdoors in nature, and from the social interaction that comes with playing the game.

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These are benefits that more and more people have come to appreciate and understand during the Covid-19 pandemic, and no doubt play a major role in the dramatic increase of rounds played in the U.S. this summer, as well as the record number of new players taking up the game. Now we know that if all the new golf addicts they stick with it, they can reap the benefits for years to come.

Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, agrees:

“We are seeing more and more evidence that golf can provide significant physical and mental health benefits for participants as a moderate intensity activity,” Slumbers said in response to the study. “So we will continue to advocate these in all of our work with golfers, national federations and associations, healthcare professionals and policy makers.”

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Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.