Teeing Up for Health: The Health Benefits of Golf

Many play golf to unwind, get outdoors and perhaps wager a few good-natured bets with golfing friends, but a lesser-known benefit of playing golf is that it’s a great workout for both the mind and the body.

Although it’s a slow-moving sport, the game of golf is a great way to burn calories because most rounds of golf last anywhere from three to five hours. What you do during your time on the course can greatly affect the number of calories you burn. The greatest influence on your average calorie burn is your choice to walk the course carry or pull your clubs in a cart, use a caddy or traverse the course in a golf cart.

According to GolfLink, if you’re like most golfers, you’ll find yourself covering about five miles during an average game. In contrast, if you choose to take a cart, you’ll only be walking about one mile.

Whether or not you carry your clubs also factors into the number of calories you’ll burn on the golf course. GolfLink estimates that the average man who walks and carries his clubs for a full 18 holes will burn 1,442 calories.

If you don’t carry your clubs, instead opting for a push or pull cart, you’ll still see a significant calorie burn of 1,436.

If you don’t mind walking but prefer to have a caddy carry your clubs, you’ll see a slight decrease in the number of calories burned, but you can still burn approximately 1,226 calories. Golfers who choose to navigate the course in a golf cart have the lowest calorie burn, around 822 calories.

Even though golf is generally considered as a leisurely sport, it still requires a great deal of performance and coordination from your body, and if you’re not prepared for that level of activity, you’ll be prone to injuries. To prevent injuries before they even have the chance to happen, Michael Macko, clinical director and physical therapist at Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, suggests spending some time warming up before you hit the course, even if you think you don’t need to.

“Because of golf’s unique demands for flexibility and symmetry in the swing, one could argue that warming up and stretching thoroughly are even more important in golf than many other sports,” Macko says. “Golfers are notoriously negligent when it comes to warming up and stretching. I know because I like to play a lot and am often guilty of this mistake myself. Many golfers hop in the cart and try to avoid as much walking as possible on the course. Very few golfers use a jog or brisk walk to the practice range or first tee as a warm-up.”

Macko recommends adding some form of cardiovascular exercise to warm up, elevate the body’s core temperature and increase heart rate and circulation. A brisk walk—before you pick up a club—is a simple option that will go a long way toward preventing injuries.

After a walk, Macko recommends following up with a few dynamic stretches like the ones pictured below, remembering to move slowly and smoothly from one stretch to the next, instead of holding each stretch.

[photos of stretches Macko sent over]

A good warm-up before a game can certainly help prevent injuries, but David Rothbart, M.D., a neurosurgeon with Spine Team Texas and a physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Alliance, Southlake, Rockwall and Allen, suggests taking a lesson, whether you’re an amateur or a pro, also to avoid injury.

“These classes are offered pretty routinely, and they emphasize proper form to be used to prevent back pain and injury,” Rothbart says. “Concentrating on the biomechanics of your swing will help to ensure that you don’t suffer a back or neck injury. Think about the motion of your body and don’t lean forward.”

Rothbart also points out the importance of bending from your hips and knees while playing, rather than from your back, which can help to ease the pressure on your spine.

Low back pain is a common ailment among more people than just golfers, but Macko reports that some of highest-risk injuries he sees in avid amateur and pro golfers alike are cervical spine and wrist problems, which can sideline your game for a long time.

“There is a reason that the best golfers in the world often put together teams of professionals to help them,” he says. “Swing coaches, sports dietitians, physical therapists, massage therapists and personal trainers all have important roles to play, and professionals like these are available to golfers of all ability levels. Unlike many sports, golf can be a lifelong passion. Not one of the support professionals mentioned above is trained in everything needed to keep a golfer healthy, so it’s best to look for professionals who work well with other professions and want to be part of the team.”

If golfing sounds like a great workout for you, you’re in luck! DFW is home to several municipal and private golf courses, 27 of which were named as one of the Top 100 Golf Courses in Texas by The Dallas Morning News.

Some notable courses among the Top 10 are: the Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas (No. 9); the Vaquero Club in Westlake (No. 8); the Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas (No. 4); the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth (No. 3); and the Dallas National Golf Club in Dallas (No. 1).

No matter what motivates you to head out to the golf course, now you can add “healthful workout” to your list of reasons to play. Use these tips to play some of North Texas’ finest courses, and to burn some extra calories. Wherever and whenever you play, remember to take the precautions recommended here to help prevent injuries.

So, when’s your next tee time?

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