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Golf’s wellbeing benefits should have seen courses opened sooner, says new study

As if you needed another reason to argue about the merits of golf courses reopening, researchers have revealed what we always knew. Steve Carroll explains
 

Did you buy a net during lockdown? Have you tried to fill the void of golf clubs being shut with indoor putting, chipping and swing practice?

A new scientific report has revealed what you probably already knew: nothing beats being out on the course.

But the investigation, carried out by researchers at Abertay University, in Dundee, and York St John University, could still have an impact if the loosening of Covid restrictions doesn’t go as the Government hopes.

That’s because they recommend that, based on their findings, “on-course golf activity should be introduced at an early stage of any restrictive period”.

This study is just the latest to support the merits of allowing golf during the pandemic – following the updated report issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf earlier in the year. Golf courses in England are set to reopen on March 29 following a three-month shutdown.

The Abertay and York researchers looked at the impact of lockdown on golfers, measuring a series of key personal wellbeing factors, including self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, and sense of belonging.

Golfers aged 16 to 89 completed two surveys – during the first national lockdown last May and when courses had reopened in July. More than 420 players, 90 per cent of whom had a handicap, responded.

The scientists discovered “the wellbeing benefits of playing an outdoor course cannot be fully replicated by driving range activity, or home practice like putting and chipping”. That also applied to watching golf on TV and taking part in online tutorials.

Their report suggested: “When considering both studies and the transition from quarantine restrictions to being able to play outdoor golf, significant improvements were observed in sense of belonging and life satisfaction.

“Taken collectively, this multi-study provides insight into golf-related activities during an unprecedented time during a global pandemic and how these can facilitate superior perceptions of sense of belonging, wellbeing and life satisfaction when golf is conducted on outdoor courses.”

Dr Graeme Sorbie, of Abertay University’s Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: “Based on our findings, we would recommend that on-course golf activity should be introduced at an early stage of any restrictive period, particularly given safety measures that have already been put in place by governing bodies responsible for golf.

“The personal wellbeing benefits that golf and other sports provide are well documented, but this study shows how difficult it can be to replace these under restricted conditions.

“It is absolutely right that all UK nations take a measured approach to easing lockdown restrictions, however our research shows a clear merit to opening up golf courses around the country where this can be done in a safe and controlled way.”

Dr Alexander Beaumont, of York St John University School of Science, Technology & Health, said: “While it is possible that increased life satisfaction with the reopening of golf courses was influenced by the easing of restrictions and more social interactions, our study suggests that golf activity, when performed outside, has the potential to provide golfers with opportunities to feel a greater sense of belonging to the sport, wellbeing and also life satisfaction.

“This could be down to increased golf-related physical activity, social interaction with other players on the course, or playing the sport in a natural environment.’’

The researchers are to continue their collaboration into the golf-related effects on health and wellbeing.

What do you think of the study and what it might mean for golf courses reopening if lockdown restrictions continued? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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