This report from the R&A provides an overview of published scientific papers, summarising their key findings on the health benefits of golf. The report aims to raise awareness of the significant health benefits of the sport, encourage participation in all ages and abilities, improve the sport’s image, and increase advocacy for golf by government agencies and public health bodies. It does so by bringing together what is known about the health benefits of golf, summarising the scientific research, the public exposure, and increased interest amongst national federations, policy makers, and other organisations.
The report provides an overview of the key findings and implications from several scientific studies exploring the relationship between golf and health. These include the Scoping Review (October 2016) of 5000 studies into golf and health; the Spectator Study (July 2017) examining health benefits from a spectator perspective; the International Consensus Statement (September 2018) to guide action on how to realise potential health benefits and minimise health risks of golf; the Strength and Balance Study (September 2020); and a number of other papers exploring the association between golf and dementia, the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health and wellbeing, joint replacement, mortality, and injury. Ten case studies are also provided to illustrate the collective endeavours of a wide range of actors in highlighting the positive impact of golf on health.
Robust evidence from the scientific studies demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits from playing golf. Playing helps individuals live longer, combat disease, improves muscular strength, power, enduring, balance, and flexibility, as well as improve mental wellbeing. Social prescription of golf can reduce health costs and add value to health systems. Spectators also achieve health benefits by walking between 5-6 miles on average. Barriers to golf include perceptions of cost, elitism, difficulty, and lack of inclusivity, reflected by the primary demographic of middle-aged and older, white, affluent males. A wide range of actors can contribute to raising awareness of the health benefits of golf, including international tournaments such as The Open, policymakers, national federations, charity organisations, and inspiring individuals like Monique Kalkman.
The Covid-19 pandemic represents a significant opportunity for government and public health bodies to advocate for the health benefits of golf. There is evidence to suggest the reputation of golf has been enhanced during the pandemic, given golf can provide health-benefiting physical activity and safe social interaction in a low-risk environment. This report has implications for policymaking by providing rigorous scientific evidence on the wide-ranging benefits of golf. There is an opportunity for encouraging participation for all ages and abilities and communicating awareness of the significant health benefits.