Is Golf Good Exercise?

Golf, often perceived as a leisurely game, is actually an excellent form of exercise.

In a nutshell, yes, golf is undoubtedly good exercise. Walking the course, swinging your club, and carrying your bag can collectively burn up to 1,500 calories or more per round, offering a balanced mix of cardiovascular workout, strength training, and even improved lung function.

Curious about the specifics? Dive into the details below and discover the multifaceted health benefits of this beloved sport.

The Physical Dimensions of a Golf Course

Ah, the sprawling green expanses of a golf course! It's not just about aesthetics or making that perfect swing.

The sheer size and design of a golf course can significantly contribute to its health benefits.

But how big is an average golf course, and what does walking its entirety entail for your health? Let's break it down.

Exploring the average size of a golf course

A standard golf course, built to accommodate 18 holes, typically ranges between 100 to 200 acres.

The playing length can vary quite a bit depending on its design, with a regulation course measuring between 6,000 to 7,200 yards (5.5 to 6.6 kilometers).

Then there are par-3 courses, which are shorter and designed mainly for a quicker play, and executive courses, which can be a blend of par-3 and par-4 holes.

Here's a more digestible breakdown:

  • Regulation 18-hole course: 6,000 to 7,200 yards (5.5 to 6.6 kilometers)
  • Par-3 course: Typically around 600 to 1,000 yards (550 to 910 meters)
  • Executive course: A mix, but generally shorter than a regulation course

The space isn't just about holes. The designs include teeing grounds, fairways leading to the green, rough and other hazards, and the putting greens themselves.

And let's not forget the often overlooked but essential areas: the clubhouse, parking lots, and maintenance facilities.

Walking distances and what it means for your health

At a first glance, one might assume you only walk the playing length of the course.

But, oh boy, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Factor in the walk between holes, detours to avoid hazards, trips to retrieve wayward balls, and you're looking at a lot more than just the hole-to-hole yardage.

On average, you might end up walking between 5 to 7 kilometers during an 18-hole round, sometimes even more if your shots aren’t always on target (and let's face it, whose are?).

Now, remember, this isn't a straight walk on a flat path. Golf courses are known for their rolling terrains, occasional slopes, and undulating landscapes.

This means, in addition to the distance, you're getting a decent workout from just navigating the land.

Walking these distances several times a week has its perks:

  1. Heart Health: It's an optimal amount of endurance exercise, helping improve cardiovascular function.
  2. Muscle Engagement: The varied terrains mean you're engaging different muscle groups, not just your legs. Those uphill climbs? They'll work your glutes and thighs.
  3. Joint Flexibility: Regular walking can help maintain joint flexibility, which is especially beneficial for older adults.
  4. Calorie Burn: On average, walking burns around 90-200 calories per 30 minutes, depending on your weight and walking speed. So, a 4-hour round of golf can torch anywhere from 720 to 1,600 calories just from walking!
  5. Mental Well-being: The serene ambiance of a golf course combined with the physical act of walking can be therapeutic, reducing stress and anxiety.

Endurance Exercise & The Heart

At the heart of any great physical activity, quite literally, is our cardiovascular system.

When we talk about endurance exercises, it's essential to focus on how they resonate with our ticker. You'd be surprised how deeply intertwined golf is with promoting heart health.

Let's unravel the relationship between enduring workouts and our heart, with golf as a delightful backdrop.

What is endurance exercise?

Endurance exercise, often referred to as aerobic exercise, involves prolonged physical activities that raise your heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period.

This kind of workout depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process, which means oxygen from the cardiovascular system is used to fuel our muscles.

Some common examples of endurance exercises include:

  • Running or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • And yes, even brisk walking on a golf course!

A few characteristics of endurance exercises are:

  1. Consistent and Sustained: Unlike burst activities like sprints, endurance exercises maintain a moderate level of intensity over a more extended period.
  2. Engages the Cardiovascular System: It targets the heart and lungs, improving their efficiency.
  3. Burns Fat: Aerobic activities primarily use fat as a fuel source, making them excellent for weight management.
  4. Builds Stamina: Over time, regular endurance activities can increase your stamina, allowing you to exercise longer and with more vigor.

How walking 18 holes multiple times a week benefits cardiovascular health

Playing a round of golf might not have the same immediate intensity as a sprint, but the cumulative effort of walking the course packs quite the punch for our heart. Here's how:

  1. Steady Heart Rate Increase: Walking 18 holes, especially on terrains with elevations, consistently raises your heart rate. This extended period of elevated heart rate mimics the effects of a prolonged aerobic workout, much like a long jog or a bike ride.
  2. Improved Circulation: As you keep moving, your blood circulation gets a boost. Enhanced circulation ensures every part of your body receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs. It also aids in waste removal.
  3. Lowers Bad Cholesterol: Regular aerobic activities, like our golf walks, can help reduce LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and increase HDL (the “good” cholesterol).
  4. Reduces Risk of Heart Diseases: Cardiovascular workouts, including walking, can reduce the risks of heart diseases. They help in maintaining blood pressure levels, managing body weight, and reducing inflammation.
  5. Mental Boost: An active cardiovascular system ensures adequate blood flow to the brain. This can improve cognitive functions and even elevate mood, acting as a natural anti-depressant.
  6. Heart Muscle Strengthening: Just like any other muscle, the heart benefits from being worked. Regular endurance activities ensure that the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient in pumping blood.
  7. Supports Weight Management: Walking 18 holes can burn significant calories. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for cardiovascular health, as obesity can lead to various heart-related complications.

Burning Calories with Every Swing

Golf, with its serene green expanses and gentle pace, might not strike you immediately as a calorie-torching activity.

But, looks can be deceiving! Beyond the strategic gameplay and camaraderie, there's a whole world of calorie burn waiting to be explored.

Let's dive into how this seemingly mellow sport can give your metabolism a good shake.

Breakdown of caloric burn during a round of golf

It's a multifaceted story when it comes to golf and burning calories. Various activities throughout the game contribute, from the walking to the swinging, and even the very act of carrying your golf bag.

  1. Walking the Course: As previously mentioned, walking an 18-hole golf course can cover between 5 to 7 kilometers. Depending on your pace, you could be burning anywhere from 400 to 700 calories just by walking.
  2. The Swing: The golf swing is a complex motion that involves multiple muscle groups from your legs to your core and arms. An average golfer might take about 30-40 full swings during a game. Each swing can burn around 3-5 calories. It might not sound like much, but collectively, that's an additional 90 to 200 calories per round.
  3. Carrying the Bag: If you're one to carry your golf bag (and hats off to you if you do), you're adding an extra layer of workout to your game. Carrying a golf bag can burn an additional 100-300 calories over 18 holes, depending on the weight of the bag and the terrain.
  4. Other Activities: Setting up your shots, bending down to tee up, retrieving your ball from the hole, and even the occasional wander into the woods to find a wayward ball – all these add up. On average, they can contribute another 50-100 calories to your total burn.

Adding up all these components, an average golfer can burn anywhere from 640 to 1,300 calories during an 18-hole round.

Factors like body weight, age, sex, metabolism, and intensity of play can cause this number to fluctuate.

Comparison: Walking with a golf bag vs. without

Walking the course is great, but add a golf bag to the mix, and you've just upped your fitness game. Let's look at how the two compare:

  1. Weight Resistance: A golf bag, filled with clubs, balls, and other equipment, can weigh anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds (9 to 18 kilograms). Carrying that weight provides resistance, similar to a weighted walk or hike, increasing the number of calories burned by about 20-30%.
  2. Muscle Engagement: Carrying a bag engages more muscle groups. Your shoulders, back, and core have to work harder to support the weight and keep you balanced. This added muscle engagement can up the caloric burn and also helps in toning and strengthening these muscles.
  3. Posture and Core: A proper golf bag carrying technique (with dual straps and balanced weight) forces you to maintain an upright posture, inadvertently working your core muscles. This is not only good for calorie burn but also for spinal health.
  4. Caloric Comparison: To give a clearer picture, walking 18 holes without a bag might see you burning, say, 600-700 calories (depending on factors mentioned earlier). Add a golf bag to that equation, and you could be looking at an additional 100-300 calories, bringing your total to 700-1,000 calories.

Cardiac and Stroke Rehabilitation: Golf as Therapy

When one thinks of rehabilitation from serious conditions like heart attacks or strokes, the mind might drift to hospital settings, rigorous physical therapies, or strict exercise regimens.

Enter golf: an unexpected yet powerful ally in the journey of recovery. This sport, often played leisurely under the sun, holds therapeutic properties that are quite impressive.

Let's understand how golf can be more than just a game for those on the mend.

The role of golf in post-cardiac event recovery

Recovering from a cardiac event is not just about physical healing.

There's a psychological aspect, often accompanied by a fear of exertion.

Golf, in its gentle glory, can play a pivotal role in the recovery process. Here’s how:

  1. Gradual Physical Activity: Unlike high-intensity sports, golf lets individuals set their own pace. This gradual reintroduction to physical activity allows the heart to adapt without sudden pressures.
  2. Stress Reduction: The open green spaces, fresh air, and the tranquility of golf courses can act as natural stress-relievers. Reducing stress is paramount for cardiac patients, given the adverse effects stress can have on the heart.
  3. Endurance Building: Walking the course provides a low-intensity aerobic workout. This can help in strengthening the cardiovascular system, improving stamina, and enhancing heart function over time.
  4. Social Interaction: After a cardiac event, many individuals experience feelings of isolation or depression. Golf offers an opportunity for social interaction, which is therapeutic in itself. The camaraderie and the shared experiences can uplift spirits.
  5. Flexibility and Strength: The act of swinging promotes flexibility and helps in regaining strength, especially in the upper body, which is crucial for overall physical rehabilitation.

How golf aids in stroke rehabilitation

Recovering from a stroke can be a daunting journey.

The challenges aren't just physical; they encompass cognitive and emotional facets too. Here’s where golf fits into the puzzle:

  1. Motor Skills: A stroke often impacts motor skills and coordination. Golf, with its focus on precision and technique, can aid in regaining these skills. The repetitive act of swinging, setting up shots, and walking can enhance muscle memory and coordination.
  2. Cognitive Function: Golf is as much a mental game as it is physical. Strategy, decision-making, and concentration are integral. Engaging in such cognitive exercises can hasten brain recovery post-stroke.
  3. Balance and Stability: A stroke might affect one's balance. The act of swinging, especially while maintaining a stance, can help in regaining balance and improving stability.
  4. Emotional Well-being: Confidence can take a hit after a stroke. As individuals regain their golfing skills, even if it's a slow process, there's a boost in self-confidence and self-worth. Plus, the sport provides an avenue for social engagement, combating feelings of isolation.
  5. Outdoor Benefits: Exposure to nature has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, and enhancing mood. For stroke survivors, being outdoors and soaking in the natural beauty can have therapeutic effects on mental well-being.
  6. Consultation is Key: It's crucial for stroke survivors to consult with their healthcare provider before taking up or resuming golf. Personalized guidelines and limitations need to be set to ensure safety and efficacy.

Breathe Easy: Golf and Improved Lung Function

Breathing, an action so inherent to our existence, is often overlooked until we encounter difficulties.

And when we discuss the health benefits of golf, lung function might not be the first thing that springs to mind.

Yet, the gentle cadence of golf can have profound impacts on our respiratory system. Let's dive into the interplay between golf and the act of breathing freely.

Exploring lung health and its connection to cardiovascular well-being

Before we delve into the specificities of golf, let's unpack the relationship between our lungs and heart – two crucial organs that form the bedrock of our cardiovascular system.

  1. The Inseparable Duo: The heart pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, while the lungs oxygenate the blood. They work in tandem, ensuring every cell receives the vital oxygen it needs.
  2. Impacts of Poor Lung Health: Reduced lung function means less oxygen for the blood and, subsequently, the heart. This can strain the heart, leading to conditions like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or more severe cardiovascular issues.
  3. The Role of Exercise: Regular aerobic exercises enhance lung capacity and efficiency. As lungs become more efficient, the heart faces less stress, as it doesn't need to work as hard to ensure oxygenated blood reaches all body parts.

How golfing, especially for older adults, can aid in better lung functionality

Age comes with wisdom but can also bring along reduced lung function.

Golf, in its tranquility and paced rhythm, can be an ally in maintaining and even improving respiratory health.

  1. Consistent Aerobic Activity: Walking the expansive greens for hours provides consistent, low-intensity aerobic exercise. This helps in expanding the lung capacity and ensuring they remain active and functional.
  2. Outdoor Air Quality: Golf courses, usually located away from urban pollution, offer cleaner air. Breathing in this purer air can be beneficial for lung health, providing a break from pollutants and allergens commonly found in city environments.
  3. Deep Breathing: The act of swinging, if done with proper technique, involves deep breathing. Deep inhalations followed by controlled exhalations during swings can act as a mini respiratory exercise, training the lungs to breathe in more deeply and efficiently.
  4. Stress Reduction: Stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing or even respiratory issues. The calming nature of golf can help reduce stress, promoting better breathing patterns and overall lung health.
  5. Promotion of Diaphragmatic Breathing: Proper posture in golf, especially when swinging, naturally encourages diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing. This type of breathing not only improves lung function but also strengthens the diaphragm.
  6. Safety First: For older adults, especially those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, it's essential to be aware of their limits. Overexertion can be counterproductive. Regular breaks, staying hydrated, and avoiding extreme weather conditions can ensure a safe golfing experience.

All-Rounded Fitness with Golf

When we think of golf, the imagery of lush greens, calculated swings, and leisurely strolls often come to mind.

But underneath its serene facade, golf is a holistic workout in disguise.

From pumping up your heart rate to toning those muscles, let's unearth the comprehensive fitness regimen hidden within a game of golf.

A look into how golf offers cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular exercise, often termed ‘cardio,' is any exercise that raises your heart rate, promoting better heart and lung health. Here's how golf fits into the picture:

  1. Walking the Course: Depending on the course's size, walking 18 holes can be equivalent to a walk of five to seven kilometers. This sustained walking raises your heart rate, providing a steady cardiovascular workout.
  2. Uphill Challenges: Golf courses aren't flat. The undulating terrain means you'll occasionally be walking uphill, which further challenges the heart and lungs, enhancing the cardiovascular benefits.
  3. Swinging with Power: A forceful golf swing, repeated many times throughout a game, also contributes to cardiovascular fitness, as it requires energy and gets the heart pumping.

Strength training elements in golf

Strength training is not just about lifting weights in the gym; it's about using resistance to induce muscular contraction, building strength, endurance, and muscle size. Golf's contribution:

  1. Powerful Swings: Each swing uses several muscle groups across the body, especially in the arms, back, and shoulders. Regular golfing can tone and strengthen these muscles.
  2. Carrying the Golf Bag: If you opt to carry your golf bag rather than use a cart, you're in for an excellent upper body workout. Those clubs aren't light, and hauling them around can be likened to weight training.
  3. Core Stability: The twisting motion when swinging a golf club is fantastic for your core muscles. A strong core further aids in powerful swings and maintains spinal health.

The balance and coordination aspect of golf

Golf is a game of finesse, demanding a harmonious blend of balance and coordination. Let's dissect its role:

  1. Stance and Swing: Proper golf technique requires a well-balanced stance. Holding and maintaining this balance, especially during a swing, trains your stabilizing muscles and improves overall balance.
  2. Hand-Eye Coordination: Striking a golf ball demands impeccable hand-eye coordination. Regular play can enhance this, benefiting not just your game but day-to-day tasks requiring precision.
  3. Planning Shots: Golf isn't about brute force; it's a strategic game. Deciding the power, direction, and type of swing requires coordination between the mind and body.
  4. Varied Terrain: The uneven grounds of a golf course challenge your balance. Navigating these terrains without tripping or stumbling requires both balance and coordination.

Golf Carts vs. Walking: What You Miss Out On

Golf carts: a convenient, often luxurious addition to the golf experience.

They're especially tempting on a hot day or on those vast courses.

But as you're cruising in comfort, have you ever wondered what you might be missing out on?

Let's explore the full scope of benefits that come with opting for a two-legged mode of transportation versus the four-wheeled one.

The calories burned difference

Choosing between a cart and walking isn't just a decision of convenience; it's also a matter of caloric burn. Here's how they compare:

  1. Walking the Course: On average, walking a golf course can burn around 1,400 to 1,500 calories. Factors like the course's terrain, your pace, and even the weight of your golf bag can affect this number.
  2. Riding the Cart: While you do burn some calories even when riding — think of the occasional walk to the ball, the swing itself, or the times you get on and off the cart — it's significantly less. Estimates suggest you might burn around 400-650 calories when using a cart for an 18-hole round.
  3. The Gap: That's a difference of nearly 800-1100 calories between walking the course and using a cart. Over multiple games, this difference becomes even more significant.

Other health benefits you miss when opting for a cart

The calorie count is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a myriad of other health benefits that walking brings to the table:

  1. Cardiovascular Health: As discussed earlier, walking provides cardiovascular exercise. Regularly walking the course can offer the heart benefits akin to a brisk walk in the park.
  2. Muscle Tone and Strength: Walking, especially on the varied terrains of a golf course, engages different muscle groups, particularly the legs, glutes, and core. Over time, this can lead to improved muscle tone and strength.
  3. Bone Health: Weight-bearing exercises, like walking, are essential for bone health. They can help increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  4. Joint Flexibility: Regular walking can help maintain joint flexibility, especially in the hips and knees. This is particularly beneficial for older adults.
  5. Mental Well-being: Nature walks have been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression. Walking the greens offers a similar therapeutic effect, allowing for introspection, relaxation, and a deeper connection to nature.
  6. Improved Sleep: Physical activity is often linked to better sleep. A good walk on the golf course might help you catch some quality Zzzs later on.
  7. Digestion Benefits: Believe it or not, walking aids digestion. It helps the stomach empty more quickly and reduces blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heartburn and promoting overall gut health.


Golf is more than just a leisurely sport; it's a pathway to holistic health.

From burning calories to enhancing cardiovascular fitness, each step on the course contributes to your well-being.

So, whether you're swinging the club or deciding between walking and a cart, remember: every choice on the green can be a step towards a healthier you.