As golf courses begin to re-open across the UK, British researchers have discovered that the feeling of wellbeing gained by playing an outdoor golf course far exceeds hitting balls at the range.

The joint study from Abertay University in Dundee and York St John University investigated the impact of lockdown on golfers.  As we eagerly anticipate standing on the first tee once again, it is no surprise that putting or chipping at home or practising at the range, just doesn’t match up to being on the golf course.

Published in journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, the research involved hundreds of UK golfers. Researchers looked at the impact of the closure and reopening of the country’s golf courses, both during and after the first national lockdown in Spring 2020.

The research focussed on a number of wellbeing factors, looking at golfers’ self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, personal competence, sense of belonging, enjoyment, social connections and life satisfaction.

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The golfers were aged 16 to 89 and completed two surveys – the first carried out during the initial national lockdown and the second following the reopening of outdoor courses in July. The studies received more than 420 responses and all participants were golfers, with more than 90% having active handicaps.

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Researchers found that practising at the driving range and golf-related activities at home, such as putting, watching golf on TV or taking part in online tutorials could not match the levels of belonging, wellbeing, enjoyment or general life satisfaction golfers reported from playing the game itself.

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.”

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Dr Alexander Beaumont of the 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.’’

Abertay University and York St John researchers are now due to continue further collaboration into the golf-related effects on health and wellbeing.