How Golf Increases Life Expectancy

mature people playing golf
Chris Ryan/caiaimage/Getty Images

It sounds too good to be true, but research has shown that playing a round of golf can add years to your life. Why? Think about it: a round of golf takes about 4 to 5 hours to play. During the entire round, the golfer is outside, walking at least 4 miles and burning calories.

Playing 18 holes of golf over 4 hours burns an average of about 360 calories per hour if you carry your own clubs. If you use a pull-cart for your bag, you'll still burn up to that many calories. Riding a golf cart, you'll burn about 200 calories per hour.

While golf is a lifelong sport enjoyed by many, do these health benefits add up to a longer life?

The Research

Before diving in to the research, it's important to understand a little about the group who conducted it. The Golf Federation of Sweden has more than 600,000 members. Membership is required for playing almost everywhere in Sweden, which means the list likely contains almost all of Sweden’s golfers.

Sweden also maintains a record of all of the deaths that have occurred in the country for the past several decades.

For the 2009 study, researchers in Sweden pulled information from both databases to study the impact golf may or may not have on mortality.

When comparing golfers and non-golfers, the researchers found that the golfers were 40% less likely to have died than non-golfers of the same age within the time frame they examined.

Not only is golfing good for your life expectancy in general, but the more a person golfs, the greater the increase in their overall health.

Adding golfers' handicaps to the equation revealed even more interesting findings.

Golfers with the lowest handicaps (indicating a better player who, in theory, golfs more frequently) had greater reductions in their risk of death compared to golfers with higher handicaps, according to the study.

Why Golf Improves Life Expectancy & Longevity

While it's possible that golf offers specific health benefits that increase longevity, the answer is potentially more simple than that: the effect could be explained by the increase in exercise.

The Swedish study's analysis did not compare the exercise levels of the non-golfers, so it's not entirely known if increased exercise explains the health benefits of golf. A 2017 review of over 300 studies suggested that the moderate physical activity associated with golf could potentially have "the same beneficial effects on longevity, physical health, mental health, and wellness associated with physical activity."

Other possible explanations include:

  • Some people with certain illnesses and health conditions cannot play golf, therefore a group of golfers being studied would exclude those populations.
  • Golf is an expensive sport, and golfers tend to be more affluent and privileged. Higher socioeconomic status is linked to better health.
  • In addition to exercise, being outside has stress-relieving and other health benefits, which golfers get to take advantage of when playing a round.

How to Make the Most of Your Golf Game

The exercise benefits of a round of golf are well documented. Here are some tips to make the most of your golf outing:

  • Walk instead of riding in a golf cart. Walk the course if you can—you'll burn extra calories and reap the cardiovascular benefits.
  • Carry your clubs or use a pull-cart. If you are able to, carry or cart your own clubs. You’ll build strength and endurance while burning extra calories.
  • Improve your game. According to the Swedish study, the more you golf, the more you'll positively affect your longevity. Golfing more will improve your health and your handicap.
  • Beware the clubhouse. Beware of beers, hamburgers, and other clubhouse snacks that will replace the calories you burned on the green.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sens J. Golf Magazine. Forget the pros, here’s how long it should take YOU to play a round of golf. August 12, 2019.

  2. Pennington B. The New York Times. A Little Scientific Research for All Those 19th-Hole Debates. August 1, 2010.

  3. Brooke HL, Talbäck M, Hörnblad J, et al. The Swedish cause of death register. Eur J Epidemiol. 2017;32(9):765-773. doi:10.1007/s10654-017-0316-1 

  4. Farahmand B, Broman G, De faire U, Vågerö D, Ahlbom A. Golf: a game of life and death--reduced mortality in Swedish golf players. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2009;19(3):419-24. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00814.x

  5. Murray AD, Daines L, Archibald D, et al. The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(1):12-19. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096625

  6. Braveman P, Gottlieb L. The social determinants of health: it's time to consider the causes of the causes. Public Health Rep. 2014;129 Suppl 2:19-31. doi:10.1177/00333549141291S206

  7. Repke MA, Berry MS, Conway LG, Metcalf A, Hensen RM, Phelan C. How does nature exposure make people healthier?: Evidence for the role of impulsivity and expanded space perception. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(8):e0202246. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0202246

  8. Murtagh EM, Murphy MH, Boone-heinonen J. Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2010;25(5):490-6. doi:10.1097/HCO.0b013e32833ce972

  9. Skerrett PJ, Willett WC. Essentials of healthy eating: a guide. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):492-501. doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2010.06.019