Fit to a Tee: The Basics of Golf
Teeing off isn't just a fun way to spend your day; it's also a great way to improve your health.

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Picture of couple playing golf Fit to a Tee: The Basics of Golf

Think golf is just a slow-paced game for businessmen in plaid pants? Think again - it might be worth taking a swing at. It may even help you live longer. Golf requires athletic skill, stamina, flexibility, strength, and concentration. It's competitive and anyone can play regardless of age or sex. Golf is fun and challenging for all levels - from putt-putter to pro.

The goal: hit the ball into a small cup using as few strokes as possible.

People are drawn to golf for many reasons:

  • You can play outdoors on beautifully landscaped courses.
  • No two golf courses are exactly the same. Each course has unique challenges.
  • You can play alone or with others. You can affect only your own score, not that of your opponents.
  • Golf boosts your mood, provides a social outlet, and improves your health.

Play 18 holes and call me in the morning
It's well documented that physical activity can improve your health. And one Swedish study added strength to the argument for golf by suggesting regular golf playing may also extend life expectancy. The study theorized that the combination of physical activity - walking the links - and the positive psychological effects of golf may be the key. Further studies are needed to see if this assumption is true.

Burns calories and more
You can control the amount of calories you burn playing golf. You can play an easy-paced game, ride in a cart, and burn the minimum numbers of calories. Or you can double the calories you burn by carrying your own clubs and walking. The actual calories burned during golf are also affected by body weight, intensity of workout, conditioning level, and your metabolism. Estimate about 300 calories per hour of golf if you walk the links and carry your own bag.

Besides burning calories, there are other health benefits to golf, including building strength and flexibility, plus exposure to vitamin D from the sun's rays (but be sure to wear sunscreen). Carrying your clubs while you walk is a weight-bearing exercise that helps build strong bones.

Check with your doctor before you start or increase your physical activity, especially if you have health problems.

Par for the course
As with any sport, there are a few downsides.

  • Potential for injury. Like any sport, there is the potential for injury while playing golf. Elbow, shoulder, back, and knee injuries are among the most common. Learning proper technique and using good equipment can help prevent injury.
  • Time-consuming and expensive. A round of golf typically takes 4 hours or more, and - depending on the course - can cost anywhere from 25 to hundreds of dollars for greens fees. Equipment is also expensive. When just starting out, consider borrowing some clubs or renting a set until you get some experience under your belt.

Getting started
A few things to get your game in gear:

  • Clothing. Comfortable, appropriate, lightweight clothing and golf-specific shoes (with or without spikes) are needed. A golf glove, which is worn to improve grip, is optional.
  • Golf bag. Specially designed carrier for your golf clubs and other equipment.
  • Golf balls. Small, resilient balls, not greater than 1.62 ounces and not less than 1.68 inches in diameter as specified by the U.S. Golf Association. (In international competition, golf balls must not be less than 1.62 inches in diameter.)
  • Golf clubs. Standard set is up to 14 clubs divided into woods (with heads of wood or metal) used mainly for tee shots and irons (with heads of forged steel, usually chromium plated) used for closer, more accurate shots.
  • Miscellaneous. Tees are small pegs that lift the ball at least one-half inch off the ground. Coins may be used to mark the position of a ball. Water is recommended for drinking. A jacket for changing weather conditions and a towel for perspiration are recommended.
By Geri K. Metzger, Staff Writer
Created on 02/08/2001
Updated on 09/06/2011
Sources:
  • Farahmand B, Broman, G, de Faire U, Vagero D, Ahlbom A. Golf: a game of life and death - reduced mortality in Swedish golf players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2008. Epub ahead of print.
  • American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine. Golf sports medicine.
  • United States Golf Association.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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