The 4 Secret Health Side Effects Of Playing More Golf

Golf’s unexpected resurgence over the past 18 months is one that was bore out of a horrible situation, but it was a boom for the industry nonetheless. And while the world was shut down, one of the few activities that folks — depending on their location and local guidelines —were allowed to do was play golf.

As golfers, we know the game itself needs only a few swings, a few holes or a few rounds to get its talons stuck in us for good, but there’s even more good news that has come out of this golf boom: scientific research and studies extolling the benefits of the game.

One of the most commonly cited statistics comes from the Harvard Medical School detailing which leisure activities have a penchant for burning the most calories in 30-minute increments. Golf checks in on the list twice: using a cart and walking while carrying clubs. 

According to their calculations, if you were to walk 18 holes while carrying your own clubs, an “average, healthy, and able-bodied person” would burn upwards of 1,640 calories with more calories being burned the more each individual weighs.

That’s a bottom-line calculation that should be enough for most golfers to make an excuse to play, but here are four other scientifically-backed reasons you should be playing more golf.


Gain More Balance & Stability

A study commissioned by the R&A and carried out by the University of Southampton and the University of Southern California indicated that older golfers have and develop strength and balance benefits moreso than their non-golf-playing counterparts. 

The Strength and Balance Study, carried out with two sample groups over two years underlined golf’s capability to improve the physical health of participants, the evidence suggests golf can improve quality of life through muscle strengthening, improved balance, aerobic exercise (equivalent to gym-based work or yoga) and social interaction.

“This suggests golf may meet World Health Organization recommendations for older people, which would potentially qualify golf for social prescription and exercise referral schemes among policy makers to help manage health conditions,” the study concluded. 

Gain Flexibility

It should come as no surprise to those who have played the game for any extended period of time that improved flexibility directly benefits your golf game, but you may not realize that the more golf you play with a relatively warmed-up body also benefits your flexibility. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

“Stretching is an important part of the game, and flexibility is paramount to the swing and reducing injury,” Andrew Creighton, DO, physiatrist at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), explained to Well+Good.


Relieve More Stress

This may seem counterintuitive to golfers who get hot under the collar when playing the game, but the research is out there to back up the benefits of simply being out in nature.

According to a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, spending only 20 minutes in nature is great for your stress hormone levels. 

“Moderate exercise, including golf, is proven to reduce stress and anxiety,” Bradley Myrick, director of golf operations at TPC Danzante Bay in Loreto, Mexico, told Well+Good.

For the study, researchers had 40 volunteers simply spend time outside in nature for a short period of time a few times a week. Those that spent time in nature produced a 21.3%/hour drop beyond that of the hormone’s 11.7% diurnal drop, which is a fancy way of saying time in nature helps de-stress you.

Spend More Friends

Whether you’re looking to gain more friends or simply spend more time with the friends you already have, golf is a natural way to boost social interaction, which if a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the social interaction is a key piece to the human condition, especially for those of an older age.

According to a new international study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, individuals around the age of 60 who consistently, or even just sometimes, feel lonely tend to live 3-5 years less on average than their similarly aged peers who never feel lonely.

Those trends, the study found, continue through those tested up to the age of 80 and beyond.