There is a movement spearheaded by the USGA (United States Golf Association) to get golfers to leave their carts behind and start walking the course more for an experience that harkens back to the birth of the great game.
Walking the course can have mental health benefits as well as the noticeable physical improvements. The time taken to cover 18 holes on foot clears the mind and erases the current tensions of everyday life. Physically, walking burns calories and indeed, for older golfers, provides the standard amount of exercise that doctors suggest per week.
Not only are there numerous health benefits to walking 18 holes but keeping the cart off the course helps the grounds heal and stay in great shape.
Here’s a guide to how walking the course is excellent for the body and mind but also helps the environment.
According to Harvard’s Dr. William Kormos, briskly walking 18 holes burns roughly 800 to 900 calories over the course of a four-hour round. The American Heart Association suggests that to keep a healthy heart that an individual should have a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Although a round of golf has a start-stop element, when you consider the exertion involved in swinging clubs, walking the course a couple of times per week should provide a serious chunk of your needed exercise time.
In contrast, if you ride in a cart, your walking distance is cut almost by three-quarters to just one mile per round. And with this reduction in mileage, your caloric burn is severely hampered, and you’ll have to supplement your weekly exercise regiment. Don’t forget that this 150 minutes a week rule-of-thumb is the minimum exercise needed to curb your risk of heart attack and stroke.
So how do you start? Perhaps you’re not ready to walk 18 just yet but worried that this is an all-or-nothing proposition. Well, the secret to improving your health through the game of golf is by starting small. Before you begin, know what the ultimate exercise goal is for your life. If you want to carry a bag across 18 holes but don’t already have an exercise program, then you’ll need to build your stamina slowly.
A great way to do that is by using a push cart over just nine holes. If you want to continue the round, then grab a regular golf cart for the final nine. By doing this for a few months, you’ll build the muscle memory and stamina to carry you through a full 18-hole round.
Let’s talk about what walking a course does for your mind. In this high-paced life of ours, a casual walk while playing golf can reduce stress and offer an opportunity to get away from cell phones and the distractions of the office. Being among the natural surroundings, and away from the noise of traffic and large groups of people, can benefit you tremendously. Making time to play golf in a peaceful and unhurried environment can act as a type of therapeutic release.
Another positive aspect of walking the course is how it improves your overall golf game. With the rinse-repeat method of hitting shots then driving the cart quickly to the ball and hitting the shot again, much of the nuance of the great game is lost in the process. Walking to your ball allows for a few minutes of reflection on the upcoming shot. By using better mental focus in preparation for the shot ahead, you’ll see your scores drop, and your enjoyment of golf go through the roof.
Keeping the Course Green
What we don’t take into account when we finish a round of golf is the footprint we’ve left behind on the course itself. When using a golf cart, we wreak havoc on the environment. We race through rough, stop quickly along the areas around bunkers and sometimes get too close to greens.
With modern advancements in golf architecture, courses are more plush and sustainable than ever. As clubs utilize less water and fewer fertilizers, the courses have become growing palaces that demand respect. However, when you look at the typical number of rounds played at a club over the course of a weekend, then you can begin to imagine the toll of tens, if not hundreds, of carts can have on the turf.
90-degree cart rules were created by clubs to minimize the damage to fairways and surrounding hazards. But we know that most golfers fail to properly maintain this rule when driving their carts.
By walking the course, we preserve and maintain the high quality of the grounds. And although it may seem to go against reality, walking the course is actually faster than sharing a cart with another partner. Walking streamlines the time spent on the course as the golfer only walks to their ball to play instead of alternating driving to each partner’s golf ball location.
One Last Thing
If you are thinking of starting a walking tradition at your local municipal course, then start small and work your way to achieving your goal of covering 18 holes with just your stride. Walking the course improves the health of the golfer as well as the course. If you play at a local club, then you should take an interest in how the grounds are maintained because by playing the course the right way, it should last for many generations to come.