It may have a reputation as a leisurely (and expensive) activity with minimal physical demand, but golf is actually a great way to get exercise, particularly if you're older—and it doesn't have to be pricey. Here are some of the physical and mental benefits of hitting the green:
- You may have heard that walking 10,000 steps a day will help keep you fit. Walking an 18-hole golf course, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, will more than fulfill that requirement. Even if you ride a golf cart, you’ll get some exercise—but it's true you’ll benefit most if you walk the course.
- For older people, 18 holes of golf is a moderately intense workout. If you walk the course carrying your clubs, golf can be a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens bone. But start slowly. Nine holes may suffice until your skills improve.
- Golf can be relaxing, an antidote to stress. You need not play competitively. You don't have to shoot par. Play with a partner who's on your level of ability, or play alone.
- You’ll be outside—always a plus in nice weather.
Easy to begin
Golf need not cost a lot, if you have access to a public course. Try to locate an instructor with PGA (Professional Golf Association) credentials. The PGA website can put you in touch with a teacher in your area and offers a lot of other information. If you belong to a club or residential association with a golf course, you'll find help there.
All you need is comfortable clothing, including a pair of athletic shoes (ideally golf shoes with cleats), golf balls and tees, sunscreen and a hat for sun protection, and a golf glove to prevent blisters. Borrow some clubs and a golf bag or rent them at first. You can make do with a putter, an 8 or 9 iron, a 3 or 5 wood, and a sand wedge. You can add more clubs as you learn to use them.
An instructor will teach you how to grip the club, stand properly, swing, and position your head and eyes as you swing. Between lessons you can practice on a driving range or on the course, if you have a friend or family member who can show you the ropes. You won't want to practice on a crowded course where you’ll hold up other players. Golf etiquette is a big subject, but here are two basic pointers: remain silent while someone else is preparing to hit the ball, and keep up the pace of the play.
Last words: As with any sport, you can get injured playing golf. Your shoulders, back, and hips are especially vulnerable. Correct technique can reduce the risk of injuries. If you have any physical ailment, especially back or shoulder problems, get advice from your physician or a physical therapist. Alternate golf with other sports or workouts such as weight training or tai chi.