Whether you’re a lifelong golfer, or your parent is taking up the game in retirement, you can enjoy the benefits of golf in many different ways. While any excuse to spend a beautiful day outdoors enjoying the sounds of nature is a good one, golf is uniquely able to provide a low-impact, beneficial workout for both mind and body.
Golf can be an important tool in maintaining your fitness, both for yourself and the parent you’re taking care of. It carries a very low risk of injury compared to other sports, but offers great health benefits as well as competition and fun.
In this article, we’ll explore the ways you can get the benefits of golf, no matter your age or talent level.
The Health Benefits of Playing Golf
While the argument of whether golf is or is not a sport rages on, golfers are too busy out on the course enjoying the great game to care about such trivialities. Playing a round of golf has many health benefits, including:
- Physical exercise. Fitbit-wearing golfers know that one of the top benefits of playing golf is getting a lot of steps in. Even if you ride in a cart, you’ll easily tally over 7,000 steps for an 18-hole round.
Walking is an extremely beneficial exercise, as it helps improve your circulation, burn calories and keep your blood pressure down.
Even though walking during golf is intermittent, studies show that walking an 18-hole round of golf is an equivalent exercise to a brisk, 4-mile walk. Regular exercise is important for everything from improving memory to reducing fall risk.
On top of simply walking, golf also helps build muscle and encourages rotational movement, keeping you limber.
- Mental stimulation. The strategy and focus required during a round of golf is good for keeping the mind stimulated, as there’s far more to the game than simply hitting a ball and chasing after it.
If you hit your tee shot into trouble, you’ll have several options to consider for recovery: will you take the safe route and just chip it out into the fairway? Or will you take a riskier, more aggressive line to try to save a stroke?
This type of strategy and decision-making increases blood flow to the brain and fires up your frontal lobe.
- Endorphins. The act of putting activates your pre-motor cortex to calculate force and direction. If you make the putt, you’re rewarded with mood-boosting endorphins! While golf can certainly be frustrating at times, playing with family members who help keep you stay relaxed will increase your enjoyment level as well as enhance the stress-reducing benefits of golf.
What if My Parent has Limited Mobility?
If your senior parent has limited mobility, there are still numerous ways for them to enjoy the fun and health benefits of golf.
- Golf carts. Golf carts are ubiquitous nowadays, and many carts will offer a handicapped placard that allows you to drive closer to the green than most golfers are allowed to.
- Family tees. If your mom can’t hit the ball as far as she used to, there are often family tees that allow you to shorten the golf course significantly. The most fun part of playing golf is making a birdie putt, so don’t be afraid to use the family tees. For those new to golf, a birdie is one stroke under par, which is the number of strokes generally required for a hole. You can also make your own by teeing off from the middle of the fairway to increase the number of birdie opportunities you’ll have while playing.
- Executive or “par 3” courses. These are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. These courses are usually made up of all par 3s, where the holes are shorter and usually only require three strokes to make it in. They are also typically only 9 holes. They’re an easier walk than a full-sized golf course and don’t take up the 4-5 hours that playing 18 holes can stretch out to.
While many sports are prohibitive to seniors with limited mobility, golf remains a game most people can play well into their retirement years. There’s even a US Blind Golf Association for golfers who have lost their sight!
Reap the Benefits on a Driving Range
Even if you don’t have time to play a short executive golf course, you can still enjoy the benefits of golf at a driving range. Sure, the walking aspect won’t be there, but hitting golf balls for an hour burns nearly 200 extra calories for a 180-lb person! Swinging a golf club will help increase your flexibility, build muscle strength and improve your blood flow.
At newer, competitive driving ranges like TopGolf, sensors in their golf balls helps enable you to play games to compete for high scores. Adding this competition to the experience makes it a fun family outing and can improve your mood more than simply hitting ball after ball on a traditional driving range.
Many TopGolf locations offer half-price games before noon or even all day on some weekdays, which makes it perfect for a retiree with mornings and weekdays available. You may be surprised by how sore your body is after hitting 100 balls at a driving range.
Be a Spectator at a Tournament
While many people balk (or nap) at the idea of watching golf on TV, going to a tournament in person is a completely different experience. Not only do you get the excitement of watching some of the best golfers in the world do what they do best, you also get great exercise from walking the course.
Consider attending a PGA Tour Champions or LPGA event with your parent, as they often have lower-cost tickets and smaller crowds to deal with. Many of the PGA Tour Champions golfers are legends that you and your parents may have watched as you were growing up, and they still have unbelievable amounts of talent. Make the most of the experience by:
- Going early. The best way to watch a tournament is to get there early in the day. If you go on a Thursday or a Friday, you’ll usually have a front-row seat. You may even be able to interact with the pros on the putting green or even on the course.
- Pick a group to follow. When you arrive early, pick a group you’d like to follow for nine holes. This lets you get your walking in early while you’re fresh and the heat of the day hasn’t set in yet. After 9 holes, break for a snack (many tournaments let you bring your own). Then find a shady spot by the 18th green and watch as the players finish their rounds.
- Find the entertainment. Many tournaments also offer entertainment, such as putting contests, hitting nets, or even free club-fittings. Watching a tournament is not only an excellent workout, but it’ll also fuel your fire to get back on the course and play some golf of your own!
Whether you’ve been playing golf all your life, or just picked it up, this sport has many health benefits for seniors. Taking advantage of these benefits is simple. It boils down to just playing the game at the course or at the driving range with your loved ones. If you happen to live close to one of the PGA tournaments, pass by to get a feel of how pro golfers play the game. These are great ways to bond with a parent while working everyone’s brain and body.