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News article

Research reveals personal wellbeing benefits of on-course golf

Published: 03 March 2021

A man in a yellow top and dark trousers playing golf

New research showing the personal wellbeing benefits of golf during the pandemic has been published as the opening of courses is considered across UK nations.

The joint study from Abertay University in Dundee and York St John University investigated the impact of lockdown on golfers, revealing the wellbeing benefits of playing an outdoor course cannot be fully replicated by driving range activity, or home practice like putting or chipping.

Published in journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, the research involved hundreds of UK golfers and analysed the effects of the closure and reopening of the country’s golf courses, both during and after the first national lockdown.

The UK Government has announced it hopes courses in England may be permitted to reopen from 29 March, dependent on national progress against the pandemic. Devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to commit to resuming any activity, while courses have remained open in Scotland during the current lockdown, but under tough restrictions.

As part of the new research, a number of key personal wellbeing factors were measured, analysing golfers’ self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, personal competence, sense of belonging, enjoyment, social connections and life satisfaction.

Participants were aged 16 to 89 and completed two surveys – the first carried out during the initial national lockdown in May and the second following the reopening of outdoor courses in July. The studies received more than 420 responses and all participants were active golfers, with more than 90% having a handicap rating.

Researchers found that driving range activity and golf-related activities which were possible at home during lockdown (putting, swing practice, chipping into a net, watching golf on TV, or taking part in online tutorials) could not match the levels of belonging, wellbeing, enjoyment or general life satisfaction golfers reported from playing outdoors.

Dr Graeme Sorbie of Abertay University’s Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences said: “Based on our findings, we would recommend that on-course golf activity should be introduced at an early stage of any restrictive period, particularly given safety measures that have already been put in place by governing bodies responsible for golf. The personal wellbeing benefits that golf and other sports provide are well documented, but this study shows how difficult it can be to replace these under restricted conditions. It is absolutely right that all UK nations take a measured approach to easing lockdown restrictions, however our research shows a clear merit to opening up golf courses around the country where this can be done in a safe and controlled way.”

Dr Alexander Beaumont of the York St John University School of Science, Technology & Health said: “While it is possible that increased life satisfaction with the reopening of golf courses was influenced by the easing of restrictions and more social interactions, our study suggests that golf activity, when performed outside, has the potential to provide golfers with opportunities to feel a greater sense of belonging to the sport, wellbeing and also life satisfaction. This could be down to increased golf-related physical activity, social interaction with other players on the course, or playing the sport in a natural environment.’’

Abertay University and York St John researchers are now due to continue further collaboration into the golf-related effects on health and wellbeing.

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