It is a sport with many detractors, most notably Mark Twain, who intoned “golf is a good walk spoiled”.
But now its supporters have been vindicated after Scottish scientists found that getting out on the course is likely to increase life expectancy as well as help prevent chronic diseases and improve mental health for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds,
The study, by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, also found golf can help players meet and exceed minimum government recommendations for moderate to vigorous physical activity – with golfers typically burning a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes.
The study, published today in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is part of the golf and health project, led by the World Golf Federation.
The physical benefits of golf increase with age, improving balance and muscle endurance.
Lead researcher Dr Andrew Murray, from the university’s physical activity for health research centre, who reviewed 5,000 studies into golf, said: “Unlike sports such as football and rugby, golf is a game which can be played by people of all ages from four to 104, whether it be speed or six-hole golf. We know that the moderate physical activity that golf provides increases life expectancy, has mental health benefits, and can help prevent and treat more than 40 major chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
“Evidence suggests golfers live longer than non-golfers, enjoying improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, wellness, self-esteem and self-worth. Given that the sport can be played by the very young to the very old, this demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits for people of all ages.”.
Padraig Harrington, a vice-captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup, a three-time major champion and golf and health ambassador, said: “The golf and health project is clearly taking an important step forward, shining a light on the benefits of our sport. I have seen how impactful golf can be on peoples’ wellbeing – now it’s time to get this message out there.”