Is Golf Good Exercise?


We typically think of a round of golf as a laid pack activity cruising around the golf course in our golf carts and maybe even having a few beers. We view it as something to do after work or on the weekends to relax and escape the hustle and bustle that our daily lives bring. Rarely do we even think about the health benefits of golf or that it could be considered exercise. But can golf actually be good exercise? Now you might have to get off the golf cart and start walking the course for that to even be a reasonable question, but I think you might be surprised how many health benefits there are to golf. In this article I will go over the weight loss, strength, cardiovascular, and mental health benefits of golf and what you can do to boost these benefits even further. 

Weight Loss

If weight loss is your goal you may be surprised at just how effective getting in a couple extra rounds can be. To adequately cover losing weight in golf I would be remiss if I did not get a little scientific and cover the basics. Below I will cover calories and how they are integral in losing weight. As someone who has spent countless hours researching and reading about weight loss as well as having real life experience I will tell you that one of the golden rules of losing weight is you must consume less calories than you consume. In other words you must burn off more throughout the day than you are eating. I know that some might of you might be saying “well duhhhhhhh!”, but I can not tell you how many times I have seen people trying to get around this very basic law of thermodynamics and look for the next gimmick to losing weight such as wearing some special weight loss bracelet. Trust me 99.999% of those types of advertisements and gimmicks do absolutely nothing. Losing weight is and always has been hard. Now lets get down to some facts.

Let’s Talk Calories

What are calories and why are they important? The calorie is a unit of energy defined as the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a quantity of water by one degree Celsius. They are what gives us energy to perform our daily duties and are in food and beverages. There are 3500 calories in a pound which means to lose 1 pound a week you would need to consume 3500 calories less than what you normally consume spread out through an entire week. If you normally eat around 2500 calories a day simply eating 2000 which is 500 less for 7 days will equal a 3500 calorie deficit which will cause you to lose 1 pound.

  • 3500 calories in a pound
  • 3500 calorie deficit in a week= loss of 1 pound
  • 500 calorie deficit per day will equal 3500 calories for the week or a loss of 1 pound
  • 52 pounds= how much you can lose with a 3500 calorie deficit per week in a year

Where Does Golf Come In?

What if I told you that you could burn more calories playing just 9 holes of golf while walking and carrying your clubs than you could playing basketball for a full hour? Would you believe me? During an hour of basketball the typical adult will burn between 500 to 700 calories with the difference being due to weight, age, and intensity. Neil Wolkodoff did some research on golfers and how many calories they burned depending on whether they used a cart, pushed a golf cart, or walked and carried their own bag. Through 9 holes of golf while walking and carrying a bag you can burn a whopping 721 calories! Double that to 1442 if you are to play a full round. Pushing a cart was very close with 9 holes burning 718 calories or 1436 for 18 holes. Even just driving around in the cart burned 411 calories through 9 holes or 822 for a full round. Considering you need just a 3500 calorie deficit spread throughout the week just by adding in a couple extra rounds a week you will almost be at a 3000 calorie deficit. Add in a half round after work and you will have over a 3500 calorie deficit. So, if weight loss is a goal of yours than getting off the cart and walking a few extra rounds can make a large difference in shedding a few pounds. If you are unable to walk due to injuries or other deficits than that is fine too. I would suggest that if you are able try to start off slowly and walk maybe just a few holes a round and than as you build up your strength and endurance you will be able to walk half a round and before you know it a full 18 holes.

Calories burned during 18 holes

  • 1442-Calories burned while walking and carrying bag
  • 1436-Calories burned while pushing cart
  • 822-Calories burned while driving golf cart

Golf is not the first sport that comes to mind when you think of building muscle. While it is true that golf will not have as much of an impact on gaining strength as a typical well laid out gym workout don’t discount it as worthless either. One of the great things about the golf swing is that just about every muscle group is active and contributes to the swing. While there are some muscle groups which will get more activity such as the legs, core, and arms just about every muscle group is either an active contributor or helps to stabilize the body. Take the pectoralis major or the chest muscles as an example. Many will associate this muscle group with the bench press but the main action of the pec major is the adduction of the arms back to the body. They are active in the golf swing from the start of the backswing all the way to follow through and will have particularly increased activity from the downswing to right at impact helping to increase club head speed. You can go from the toes to the head however and will find muscle activity everywhere during the golf swing. While you might not be adding a 100 pounds to your bench press just by playing golf, it is a great sport to maintain the strength you have and prevent muscle loss. Don’t forget the importance of getting in enough protein throughout the day if you want to build up your strength. Check out this article- Do you need Protein for Golf? for more information on how crucial protein can be to your golf game and gaining strength in general.

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Disclaimer

Although I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy by profession, I am not your Physical Therapist nor am I a Medical Doctor. All content and information on this website are for informational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and do not establish any kind of patient-client relationship by your use of this website. A patient-client relationship with you is only formed after we have expressly entered into a written agreement with you that you have signed including our terms to represent you in a specific manner. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, legal, medical and financial, or tax-related decisions.

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