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  • Alistair Tait

Golf can soothe the soul

It’s official: golf can have a positive impact on your well being. That’s the takeaway from the R&A’s Post Covid Opportunity Research as conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys.

It confirms what many of us who’ve played this game for a long time already knew: golf can soothe the soul.

If the nightmare of Covid-19 proved anything to aficionadas of this stick and ball game, it’s that we should never again take the game we love for granted. We probably did before the first lockdown back in March 2020. Now? No way. Not when it has such benefits for mental health as confirmed by the R&A. No wonder 2.3 million more people in the British Isles took to the game last year.

As the research reveals:

“The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on mental and physical health and loneliness has been considerable, with the research showing how golf has helped in these areas.”

Key findings include:

  • Among avid/regular golfers, 31% had experienced some negative impact on their feelings of loneliness/isolation as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 79% believe playing golf had a positive impact.

  • Among lapsed/returning golfers, 44% had experienced some negative impact on their mental health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 92% felt that playing golf had a positive impact.

  • Among occasional/infrequent golfers, 34% had experienced some negative impact on their physical health as a result of the pandemic. Of these, 70% agreed that playing golf had a positive impact.

Phil Anderton, the R&A’s Chief Development officer, states:

“The mental and physical health benefits of golf have helped boost participation in 2020 and that is hugely encouraging given the sport offers a wonderful form of exercise out in the fresh air for all ages and abilities.”

We can all echo that after this past year.

I didn’t miss golf too much during the first lockdown in March 2020. I had this blog to keep me occupied, give some structure to my day along with other work I do in the game. I’m fortunate enough to live in a small village in rural England with a plethora of great walks to enjoy. I took advantage of that one time out per day for exercise to go for long dog walks. Izzy was probably happy her regular exercise didn’t include watching me hit awful golf shots.

Besides, it was March. The weather was awful. A couple of months off to let the courses, not to mention my clubs and rain gear, dry out seemed like one of the small pluses of the pandemic. I’m sure greenkeepers saw it as a welcome way of maintaining courses without having to work around members.

Can’t say the same about lockdowns two and three. Those were hard take. It wasn’t so much not playing that got to me, but the overall structure rounds of golf give to my week. And missing friends I play with on a regular basis: the banter, the bets, the drinks in the bar afterwards. We had zoom calls, but it’s not the same, is it?

Those who live alone, for whom golf is one of their main methods of interacting and socialising, must have found it hard. I admire people in those situations who managed to get through all three lockdowns without going stir crazy.

I’m not surprised the research finds playing golf has a positive impact on mental health. It certainly has on mine, even when I’m playing like I’ve got someone else’s arms. A bad round of golf is better than no round of golf in my book.

Anyway, must rush. I’m playing in a regular Friday swindle today full of great friends on Woburn’s Golf Club’s delightful Dukes course. Along with my faithful friend Izzy, I’ll be enjoying a few hours of letting golf have a positive impact on my psyche, soothing my soul thanks to Scotland’s greatest invention.

#JustSaying: “Real golf is a thing of the spirit, not of mere mechanical excellence of stroke.” P.G. Woodhouse

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