A new academic study by researchers at The University of Edinburgh highlighting the health benefits of playing golf has been hailed by Members of Parliament at Westminster.
The Golf & Health Project, supported by the World Golf Foundation (WGF) and The R&A, has the backing of a host of international golfers and former players, including three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Gary Player.
A motion has been tabled in the House of Commons welcoming the review, which highlights the considerable physical and mental health benefits of the sport.
The review found that golfers live longer than non-golfers, playing golf improves cholesterol levels and body composition, and also appears to improve wellness and self-confidence. Golf is also expected to decrease the risk of more than 40 major chronic diseases.
The motion welcomes “the collaborative approach highlighted thus far by the World Golf Foundation, The R&A, PGAs of Europe, the European Tour, and the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews” and “looks forward to members and the public alike benefiting from the health benefits of this great sport.”
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, led by Dr Andrew Murray and under the supervision of leading international academics, Professor Nanette Mutrie and Professor Liz Grant, conducted the largest, most comprehensive study of golf and health, with the results shown in a Scoping Review published in the world’s leading sports medicine and science journal, The British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Lead researcher, Dr Murray, said, “Our review is clear that golf has overall health benefits. Golf provides moderate intensity physical activity, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation for its key role in improving life expectancy, helping prevent over 40 major chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes and improving mental health. Golf can provide health benefits for people of all ages and backgrounds.
“The interest and leadership of Stephen Gethins, Karl McCartney and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Golf in promoting the health benefits of the sport, and policies that promote growing the game is so important in helping people and populations gain the physical, mental, and social benefits golf can provide.”
In total, 5,000 papers were reviewed to provide a comprehensive view on the impact of the game on health, illness prevention (and management) and associated injuries (infographic).
Key benefits include improvements in life expectancy and quality of life, as well as physical and mental health benefits. Golf is expected to decrease the risk of more than 40 major chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, colon and breast cancer. Current research shows that golf has positive impacts on cholesterol, body composition, metabolism, and longevity.
The Project launches with support from golf’s major organisations, along with an initial eight ambassadors from around the world with more than 30 majors and 350 wins between them - Aaron Baddeley (Australia), Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Brooke Henderson (Canada), Gary Player (South Africa), Padraig Harrington (Ireland), Ryann O'Toole (USA), So Yeon Ryu (South Korea), and Zach Johnson (USA).
“I am delighted to be an Ambassador for the Golf & Health Project and wholeheartedly support the work they are doing to prove the health and wellbeing benefits of golf,” said Gary Player, nine-time Major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member.
“The systematic and academic confirmation of the physical and mental benefits golf gives people will be of great use to us all to spread the word to institutions, governments and the entire world!”
Current information from the Scoping Review and future research findings will continue to be available through the Golf & Health website. This information is designed to be practical and usable by golf’s stakeholders to help develop the sport around the world.
The project also aims to show existing and future benefits that are identified are applicable to individuals of all ages throughout society, not just a specific sub-section of the population.
The WGF and the major golf organisations represented on its Board of Directors, along with partners such as the PGAs of Europe and the University of Edinburgh, academic collaborators and supporters from the University of California at San Francisco, and various other organisations, are working together on the Project with a view to sharing its work around the globe.
“The importance of the Golf & Health Project in the development of the sport is vital, not just for the WGF’s partners, but everyone involved with golf around the world,” said Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation.
“This project is something we can all get behind, as it is universally agreed that golf is good for you. It is going to provide real, tangible resources that can be used by governments and politicians, professional tours, governing bodies, golf businesses, PGA Professionals and more - all to the sport’s benefit.”
The project is planning various research-led activities to further prove areas of interest and also expand into currently under-researched areas such as the mental health benefits of golf, physical benefits in older players and the positive effects of spectating.
“For a number of years we’ve felt we’ve underplayed the likely benefits of golf on peoples’ health,” added Golf & Health Project Executive Director and European Tour Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roger Hawkes.
“Over the last two or three years, there seems to be an interest from various bodies and we’ve been able to bring together that interest to actually study this area.”