Why golf is good for you, both mentally and physically – Robert Weider
Golf was once famously described – by Winston Churchill no less – as ‘a good walk spoiled’. You won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree completely with the sentiment behind this – just like going for a good walk, golf to me is one of the best ways to look after body and mind. In fact, I’d argue that in many ways it’s even an improvement on just taking a walk. Here’s why.
- It’s sociable
If there’s one thing better for you than exercising, it’s exercising with other people. In addition to the benefit you’ll get from the physical exertion of walking a relatively long distance during a round of golf, you’re also likely to be spending quality time with other people. Whether it’s your playing partner, your caddy or just other players who are going around at the same time, golf is a great way to meet other people and just socialise – and that’s before you even get to the clubhouse. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkeley, explains: “Human beings are an ultra-social species — and our nervous systems expect to have others around us.” So, we’re built to be sociable – and it actually improves our emotional health. Golf is a great way to make sure we spend time with other people, in a beautiful and stimulating environment.
- It’s a physically demanding game
To play golf well, you need to look after your body. Many professional golfers have pre-game stretching routines that they swear by – and it is, I think, absolutely essential to try and stay in shape. As well as the walking, your body is also put under huge pressure every time you tee off – that drive you just executed requires a lot of moving parts within your body to all work together in harmony, and when they don’t it can cause serious damage. So, playing golf isn’t just a great way to get fit – enjoying the game regularly is also a powerful incentive to stay in good physical condition in order to keep on performing as well as you can do.
- Playing golf regularly requires mindful focus
I’ve spoken before here about the psychological side to the game of golf, but it’s worth reflecting again on just how beneficial it can be to your mental health. Of course, mindfulness is all the rage at the moment, but I’ve always thought that golf is one of those sports that demands mental discipline and presence like no other. Firstly, there are the long hours that you spend out on the course – it’s an opportunity for many of us to escape the daily churn of thoughts and preoccupations that take up so much of our daily lives.
And then there is the moment of playing a shot itself – as most of you will know the concentration required to execute a difficult putt or to hit a drive off the tee allows little room for you to think about anything else. It’s a moment to clear the mind, to focus on the job in hand, and to then try to do it as well as you can. And this kind of discipline, practiced over and over again – for example during the course of 18 holes, on a regular basis – has a long lasting and beneficial effect. The mind in this sense is a muscle that you can exercise – just like your legs and arms and heart – and you’ll notice the difference in your ability to focus when you’re not on the course.
Golf, for me, combines so many elements to make it the perfect game. Not only do I just simply enjoy the challenge of playing the game, both mentally and physically, but it also I enjoy the many benefits it brings. I’ve met some fantastic people through golf – whether out on the course or through the discovery of our shared passion – and I also believe that playing the game regularly has made me both mentally and physically sharper. These are personal benefits that I have felton the golf course, but that have ultimately actually improved my life off it too. I don’t think that there are many games that could claim the same.