- Alistair Tait
Golf On Prescription? Yes Please!
Imagine going to your GP, telling the doctor you’re feeling a bit under the weather, demotivated, overweight, a little depressed and generally blasé about life. Think of your reaction when the doctor’s response is:
“Why don’t you try golf?”
You: “Sorry, did you just say a four-letter word?
Doctor: “Yes, I did, but this is nice four letter word. One that will transform your mental health, help you lose weight, and lead to a general improvement in your overall wellbeing. Trust me, I play every Wednesday.”
Your response might be: “Pull the other one!”
Kingdom of Fife residents will tell you it’s no joke. They're involved in an R&A and University of St Andrews School of Medicine scheme entitled ‘Golf for Health.’ It’s a “pilot social prescribing project that aims to connect eligible primary care patients with appropriate golf activities in Fife,” according to the R&A
“This pilot initiative has been carefully designed to offer an accessible and social introduction to golf and to provide long-term health and wellbeing benefits for patients across Fife.”
Those are the words of Frank Sullivan, Professor of Primary Care Medicine and Medical School Director of Research at the University of St Andrews, who leads a team of expert academics in the School of Medicine to support the activity. Kevin Barker, the R&A’s Director of Golf Development, added:
“The R&A is actively promoting the health benefits of golf to encourage more people into the sport. We see social prescription as a great way for golf to contribute to the health of communities and to provide people with opportunities to enjoy playing the sport throughout their lifetime."
The initiative is in its early days, and involves four Fife clubs – Cluny Clays, Dunfermline, Dunnikier Park and Elmwood. GP practices are offering participants six to eight progammes, free of charge. So far the results seem to be positive, at least according to one participant. Fife resident Linda Duncan said:
“Golf has become something for me. It’s helped me get out in the fresh air and meet other people. The health benefits for me have been ten, 20, 30-fold.”
The R&A has done much to promote the health benefits of golf over the last few years. The governing body points to research which proves:
“On average, golfers live five years longer than non-golfers while golf, as a physical activity, can help prevent and treat 40 major chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, breast and colon cancer, depression and dementia."
Hear. Hear. Those of us who have played golf for any length of time know all about the health benefits, physical and mental, that come with this great game. I’m a prime example. My average daily step count last year was 13,657 paces. Most of those steps took place on a golf course. I reckon I’d be about a stone heavier if not for this royal and ancient game.
I still walk and carry, and when any non golfer scoffs at the notion golf is exercise, I say:
"Strap a 25lb golf bag on your back and go for a four-mile walk and then tell me if you think you’ve exercised?"
Even without a bag on your back, a regular three-to-four mile walk three times a weeks in pleasant surroundings is obviously good for the heart.
Duncan’s quote about fresh air, meeting other people, and golf’s health benefits is spot on. I don’t know where I’d have been at the end of 2019 when my 25-year career with a golf publication I loved and worked my you know what off for came to an end with 13 heartless words. Being able to play golf on a regular basis with friends was massive for me, as I’m sure it is for others who find themselves in the same or similar predicaments.
Golf on prescription? Yes please! In fact, why stop at Fife? Why not roll it out over all of Scotland?
#JustSaying: “Golf is eminently a game of relaxation of mind if not of body. … it comes as a boon and a blessing, for it not only gives … the opportunity of obtaining fresh air and exercise, but it also brushes away the cobwebs from an over-tired brain. S. Mure Fergusson, 1914