Golf: The benefits of picking the game up at any age
By Nigel Pritchard. Published 2020-08-21
We explore the benefits to playing the game and are you too old to start
Golf is played by about 55 million people on 32,000 courses in over 200 countries. Notably, a Scandinavian study of over 300,000 golfers estimated they lived 5 years longer than those who don’t play, regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status.
If this wasn't reason enough to start playing, the words spoken by the former Prime Minister David Lloyd George may help. He said, “Golf is the only game where the worst player gets the best of it. He obtains more out of it as regards both exercise and enjoyment, for the good player gets worried over the slightest mistake, whereas the poor player makes too many mistakes to worry about them.”
On a recent stormy day in February, I sat down with Paul Ashwell to discuss this historic game and understand its relevance for Boldies, today.
So, Paul are you ever too old to pick up the game?
"I believe golf is a great social sport to pick up at any age." He recounts the time he had a new beginner who was in his 80’s. "He really enjoyed it and played regularly for many years." “I have many pupils in their 50's and 60's, both women and men who have picked up golf, later in life.”
What do you see as the physical health benefits for golf?
"Golf is a brilliant way to remain active, from improving a person’s cardio-vascular performance, flexibility, mobility, through to core strength and balance. Just being outdoors promotes vitamin D absorption, critical in maintaining bone strength. "
Research shows that a full, 18-hole round of golf involves a walk of around 5-6 miles, over 12 thousand steps. Which means you burn around 1,500 calories. It’s also a “low-impact" sport, making golf an ideal activity for older players. Joints are not subject to the stresses and strains of more energetic activities like running or badminton.
Even if that wasn’t benefit enough, the golf swing itself is great for providing a full-body workout. Each full swing exercises the arms, legs, back and abdomen.
What other health benefits do you see?
"The game also promotes mental well-being". Clubs are welcoming to new members and are a real community. You can meet new people and strike-up friendships that go far beyond playing golf. Furthermore, a lot of clubs, St Ives included, arrange extra-curricular social events and activities, where you can bring along partners and friends.
Paul also believes golf helps maintain a person's cognitive abilities, as you regularly need to problem solve and make decisions. Just weighing up the risk and reward of a shot will keep you alert.
Even walking in the fresh air does wonders for your emotional well-being, leading to reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
Paul, how easy is it to pick up the game?
"First of all, golf is game for all abilities and ages. You don’t even need to be a member or get out on an 18-hole course to start. You can start with one club and go along to the practice range or a pitch and putt course to get a feel for the game. Even if you just want to putt, most clubs will have a practice green for you to have a go."
"Similarly, I hear people ask, isn’t it expensive? Again, whilst you are starting out and seeing whether it’s for you, you can buy a used half set of clubs, just look on internet sites, like Ebay. Even when you have the bug you don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy the game. "
Paul explains that the game is trying, all the time, to increase its accessibility. As such, most clubs run ‘taster’ sessions, be they group or one to one coaching sessions. "Here at St Ives we run them at different times throughout the year. Just give your local club a call. "
Is it easy to join in?
In my experience, Paul says, "People will go out of their way to help you to get to know others, and pair you up for games of golf." To support this most clubs will have senior sections that meet-up and play regularly. Then there are the numerous social events that go on throughout the year.
How about playing Paul?
Above all, golf is a great leveller especially with the handicap system, meaning you can play against people of all levels and still be competitive.
"Golf is also great for promoting inter-generational understanding and social connectivity. 3 generations of our family (my wife, daughter, son and mother and father-in law) used to have an annual get together and compete in pairs against each other. "
According to Paul, time has sometimes been seen as a dis-incentive. However, both the clubs and ruling bodies are promoting 9-hole competitions and simplifying the rules to speed up the conduct of play.
Talking to Paul and seeing the enthusiasm he has for helping people to enjoy the game it's clear you’re never too old to pick this great game up.
There's a wonderful quote from Morton Shaevitz a leading psychologist, who co-wrote "Re-fire don't Retire," with the bestselling author Ken Blanchard, saying “You might be on the back nine of life, but it's good to finish strong.” Go on give golf a go.