BOSTON, Mass. – More than 30 years ago to the chagrin of golfers around the globe, tennis icon John McEnroe once famously proclaimed, “you have to run to qualify as a sport, so golf is not a real sport.”
Ouch! I remember reading his comment and it sent a quiver of anger up my golf glove.
Golf carts may be a fixture in the game but that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t get plenty of exercise with an 18-hole, four-plus hour outing!
Last week a global consensus amongst leaders in public health, public policy and sport concluded that playing golf is essential to eliminate physical inactivity. More importantly, it helps prevent a range of non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer of the breast and colon.
Evidence linking golf and health, commissioned by the World Golf Foundation and supported by the R&A, was presented last week in London at the 7th Congress of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH). The biennial scientific meeting is regarded as the world’s No. 1 physical activity and public health event and was attended by more than 1,000 representatives from 60 countries.
The group was unanimous in finding that playing golf has significant physical health and wellness benefits and can provide moderate physical activity to persons of all ages. The scientific consensus revealed that playing golf is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits.
New studies are underway to discover if playing golf improves strength and balance as well as helps reduce falls in elderly, taking into consideration conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
“Physical activity of any type comes with a range of physical, social and mental benefits,” said Steve Brine, Minister for Public Health and Primary Care. “For some, golf can be a great way to stay active and there’s growing evidence about ways the sport can help those living with long term conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia. And for those who haven’t discovered their favorite sport yet it’s never too late to get inspired, connect with people and improve your wellbeing.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Golf is working hard to encourage more people into the sport, who will realize its many health benefits. With 60 million golfers spanning six continents, golf has found common purpose in working with public health practitioners and policymakers to optimize the health benefits of playing the sport.
“The new World Health Organization global action plan and the implementation toolkit ‘ACTIVE’ aims to help all countries improve the environments and the opportunities for all people to be more active,” said Professor Fiona Bull, WHO Program Manager. “Golf is a popular sport for men and women and it is great to see golf’s global leadership recognizing health priorities and identifying ways golf can be more accessible to more people.
“I took up golf in my 30s but thought it was a very technical, expensive and elitist sport. Thankfully a 6 week ‘come and try course’ showed me how easy it was to enjoy golf as a beginner and how active playing 9 holes can be. I am looking forward to seeing how golf can attract many more girls and women to enjoy the sport and be more active and healthy”.
Annika Sorenstam, Major Champion and a global ambassador for golf and health, said, “As the recent international consensus statement highlighted, golf is great for the health of people of all ages – it benefits those playing the sport and even tournament spectators. Given the health benefits, we must work together to make golf more accessible if we are to achieve our sport’s full potential.”
It didn’t take thirty years to prove Mr. McEnroe wrong. He should stick to tennis. Only golf enthusiasts know the supernatural powers that attract us to the game and that the health benefits are priceless!