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The mental and physical benefits of playing golf have been revealed in a new report published today (3 July) by ukactive, England Golf and Mytime Active.

Evidence taken from a two-year study suggests the benefits of an innovative ‘Golf on Referral’ programme include improvements in patients’ feelings of life satisfaction, physical activity levels and strength, while also reducing feelings of loneliness.

The study focused on 45 people at risk of chronic conditions who had been referred to improve their overall health by increasing their physical activity and wellbeing.

The Golf on Referral pilots were delivered at Mytime Active golf courses between 2017 and 2019, with the selected patients referred for a six-week behaviour change and golf lesson programme.

Researchers tracked the patients’ mental and physical wellbeing, finding that activity levels rose dramatically. As the patients became more active, the researchers found that levels of life satisfaction rose, along with happiness and feelings of worthwhile.

The improvements in wellbeing, coupled with a reduction in feelings of loneliness, highlighted the benefits of the programme – view the infographic here.

The report recommends that Golf on Referral continues to be studied.

Golf on Referral was developed to provide an additional referral route alongside Mytime Active’s traditional referral pathways which look to enable people to lead happier lives by prescribing physical activity.

Researchers also found that grip strength – a strong indicator of vitality in older people – increased significantly over the course of the study, suggesting improvements in muscle strength and therefore reduced risk of falls or disability for patients.

The Golf on Referral programme was supported by ukactive Research Institute findings published in the International Journal of Golf Science[i], which examined a separate survey of 3,247 golfers who participated at 12 Mytime Active golf courses.

The findings showed positive associations between playing golf and the participants’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as increased social trust and personal wellbeing.

Professor Greg Whyte, Chair of the ukactive Scientific Advisory Board, said: “Golf is a fantastic way to encourage people to be more active, particularly among people who may be classed as physically inactive.

“This research demonstrates that undertaking regular, moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking during a game of golf, can improve your overall health and happiness.

“We want to work with Mytime Active and England Golf to roll-out Golf on Referral, and build upon this evidence to provide golf-based interventions that create opportunities for more people to lead happier, healthier lives.”

Rob Drinkwater, Head of Participation and Club Support at England Golf, said: “England Golf would like to thank Mytime Active and ukactive for their support in piloting the ‘Golf on Referral’ concept.

“The health benefits of golf have long been known anecdotally by those taking part in the game, but as an industry we probably haven’t used that angle strongly enough to attract and ‘sell’ those benefits to new audiences and participants.

“We’re really excited about taking the learnings from these pilots and further developing the Golf on Referral model; working with Mytime Active as well as other leisure, health and wellbeing providers to add the product into their hubs and menus of activity options.”

Jason Stanton, Operations Director at Mytime Active, said: “The Golf on Referral programme was born out of our desire to help more people access the benefits of golf, giving our communities a fun alternative to increase their physical activity levels, learn something new and socialise with like-minded people.

“With the rising rates of loneliness we are experiencing in the UK, these positive outcomes seem more important than ever. With the support of ukactive and England Golf, we have been better able evidence the benefits of golf and the viability of the programme.

“We are proud of the product we have created and the life-changing results it’s delivered to our customers to date. We hope that other leisure, health and wellbeing providers will look to offer the programme in the future.”

To view the report and recommendations for scaling the programme, click here.

[i] Sorbie, G., Richardson, A. K., Glen, J., Hardie, S., Taliep, S., Wade, M., Broughton, L., Mann, S., Steele, J., & Lavallee, D. (2020). The association of golf participation with health and wellbeing: A comparative study. International Journal of Golf Science.