Golf is a very Zen sport. It happens at a chilled pace, you’re surrounded by exquisite nature, and you can do it alone (if you want some me-time) or with friends (if you need a bonding session)—but did you know that playing a round of golf has some great health benefits, too?
Swinging your clubs on the course can keep you strong and fit! Next time you feel like playing a few holes, remember that you’re not only doing it for enjoyment, but you’re improving your health, too.
Here are some of the health benefits of golfing.
Improved Heart Health
It might seem like golf isn’t intense enough to get your heart pumping; however, even a modest amount of walking and swinging your clubs can elevate your heart rate. In fact, the American Heart Association has proven that a regular round of golf can lower the risk of death by improving cardiovascular health!
Being out on the course can also help to lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol (reduce the bad, increase the good), and even regulate your blood glucose levels.
If you really want to take full advantage of a round, forgo the golf cart and walk from hole to hole.
Walking between holes is a great way to burn calories and get a decent workout in. You may think walking can’t do that much for you, but even a slow trek around the golf course can have surprising effects as you navigate the hills and slopes spread across 6000+ yards of various terrain—all with the added weight of carrying your golf bag.
A round of golf can also help you build muscle: Your upper chest, serratus (the muscle along your ribs), and gluteus maximus all get a good workout as you swing your club. In addition, building these muscles can help speed up your metabolism, aiding in weight loss.
Improved Mental Health
You can golf passively, but the more you play, the more you’ll find yourself analyzing, strategizing, and devising game plans. With its huge mental game, golf can be super stimulating for the brain. Serious golfers concentrate on every shot, hoping to make each count and not waste any. Even amateurs have to really focus—even if it’s just to hit the ball straight! And in the end, everyone needs to keep score.
Prior to each shot, you must consider how much force to put into your swing and determine at what angle you should hit the ball to beat the slopes. This isn’t an incredibly intense mental gymnastics workout, but working through this analysis and selection process every time you play golf can build new neural pathways, keep your mind sharp, and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s well-documented that spending time in nature can reduce stress. Also, it’s well-known that golf courses can include some of the most beautiful scenery in a given area!
Aside from simply getting you out in the fresh air—surrounded by nature—the exercise you partake in while golfing releases happy hormones (endorphins) into your bloodstream, helping to improve your mood.
When your serotonin (another happy hormone) levels are high, your quality of sleep will improve naturally, too. You’ll experience more deep sleep, the sleep cycle in which the body rests and recovers. This will help you wake up feeling refreshed and motivated in the morning.
Possible Health Hazards
As much as golf is great for your health, there is a small possibility of it contributing to hearing loss.
Considering golf is such a serene sport, you may wonder how this could happen. Well, each time you hit a monster drive down the fairway, you’ll hear a rather audible “ping” as your driver strikes the ball. When this ping assaults your ears on a regular basis, it can cause your hearing to deteriorate. This legitimate concern has been researched and reported on by the British Medical Journal.
To prevent hearing loss while golfing, you can play with earplugs or earphones. You don’t need to use them the entire time—just on those shots in which the noise is noticeable.
How to Get Started
If you’ve never played golf before but are interested in reaping some of the health benefits, here’s how to get started.
Invest in Clubs
You’re allowed a maximum of 14 clubs, but there’s no need to fill your bag if you’re just starting off. To begin, you’ll need at least a driver, a sand wedge, a pitching wedge, a 6-iron, an 8-iron, a fairway wood, and a putter. Thankfully, you don’t need to shop for each of these separately; you can buy a set that includes everything you’ll need. Second-hand sets are often a good bargain.
Don’t forget: You’ll also need golf balls, tees, a divot repair tool, and a towel.
Learn How to Swing
Right from the start, it’s important to get your form correct! To help refine your swing, you can watch videos online, but it’s best to take lessons from either a friend or coach.
Before you play a full round, consider hitting shots on the driving range or putting green. This will allow a more comfortable space to work on things without any pressure.
You’re welcome to join a golf club if you’re so inclined, but to get your money’s worth, you’ll need to play at least a few times a week. If you aren’t sure about this step yet, there’s nothing wrong with holding off on it for a while.
Learn the Rules
You don’t need to know all the ins and outs at the beginning—you’ll learn everything you need to know as you progress!
Here are a few things you do need to be aware of and stick to:
- You can have more than 14 clubs in your bag.
- Be respectful of other golfers on the course/range.
- Dress the part—no jeans, no sneakers.
- Check the local rules set by your course.
- Do some warm-up stretches before playing.
- Don’t move your ball.
- Replace and repair divots.
- Avoid playing when there’s lightning.
For a more in-depth explanation of on-course rules and etiquette, check out this article on the PGA website.
Golf is suitable for everyone. Whether you’re a busy businessperson, a work-from-homer, or a senior living a retired life, adding a regular golf round to your exercise schedule can improve your health in some surprising ways.
If you’re already dealing with hearing loss, you can absolutely still play! You simply need to be mindful of what’s going on around you. But don’t worry—you can still get lost in the beauty of the golf course environment and the strategy and concentration of playing the best round you can.
Jordan Fuller is a golf coach, expert, and mentor from Omaha, Nebraska.