Benefits of Walking While Playing Golf

Well, no surprises here. Walking while playing golf is better for your health! However, there are more benefits than just for your health when you walk while playing golf. For older golfers, the thought of walking 18 holes can become a bit overwhelming if you regularly ride the train. Let’s explore some of the benefits of taking a golf walk to keep you motivated to leave the cart next time.

From a health standpoint, several recent studies have validated what many of us already know (yes, golf IS a sport and you REALLY exercise by playing golf…even if you drive a buggy!). A group called ‘Golf Science International’ states that a four-hour walk while playing golf is equivalent to a 45-minute aerobic fitness class. Not bad. What about other studies showing a reduction in bad cholesterol in golfers who walk versus their wagon counterparts? A colleague named Edward Palink took the time to study it.

Walking while golfing: Is this sufficient exercise?

You may also have heard of the ‘10,000 steps per day challenge’, a wellness program that encourages people to count their steps and do what it takes to earn 10,000 per day. In my own anecdotal (but quite unscientific) study with my regular golf buddies, we found that your local muni walk will list around 8000 – 12000 steps.

A study released in late 2008 from the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver validated that golf is really a sport. They tied a group of study participants together and measured several key statistics:

  • Walking and carrying your cane for 9 holes burns 721 calories. The surprising finding was that using the stroller versus carrying your cane had very little difference in the number of calories burned – you still burned 718 calories when using the pull-out! Save your back, use the tow train.
  • Riding a 411 burn – that’s still a pretty good number, which shows that swinging a stick is a decent workout.

The study then becomes quite interesting when comparing the average scores of golfers who walk and carry their golf clubs, those who walk and pull their golf clubs, those who have caddy and those who carry golf carts. Results? Golfers score best when pulling their sticks. Running might give you time to think about your next shot and improve your game. Here’s how the 9-hole average score breaks down:

  • Pull car: 40
  • Card: 42
  • Golf carts: 43
  • Carrying club: 45

Interesting, huh? You can find more details about the study on the website.


It is a pity that there are many new courses that were not built with the walker in mind. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find some resort courses only allowing golf carts and not allowing walking at all. Don’t be misled by that policy – it’s not that walking is longer than cycling. In fact, research shows the opposite. Instead, this policy is usually implemented because the designer has to put significant distance between the green to the tee (sometimes for the architectural desire to work with in the terrain…but often because they are directing the path through a resort or residential development). I’m sure you’ve played a few of these courses where it’s not uncommon to have a quarter to a mile and a half between the holes.

Walking the Golf Course

Next time you play 9 or 18 holes, you should consider walking if you haven’t walked before. If shifting is too much for you, start by keeping your cart in its lane only and walking to your ball from its lane. Then maybe move on to running on the front nine and riding the back nine before continuing with running the entire lap. But definitely work your way up to at least walk your few laps and don’t just rely on the golf cart… you’ll enjoy the health benefits and benefits of a lower score!

Trent Ricker is Senior Editor at Golf Over 50 , the online magazine for Baby Boomer Golfers featuring golf tips, articles, and travel info for golfers over 50. Trent also writes for Golf Tours Online ([]), a golf travel website with golf course and golf resort reviews and golf travel discounts. Trent is a co-author of Fairways to Heaven: The Journeyman’s Guide to American Golf, a book about the top public access golf courses in the United States.