The Truth About Walking the Golf Course

Walking the golf course (photo by Greg D'Andrea)

Is walking the golf course really exercise? (photo by Greg D’Andrea)

Now I realize if you walk the golf course, there’s no place to put your beer. I get it. I’ve been guilty of using the cart as a portable keg too.

It’s so much easier to ride out there – no long walks between tees; no feeling like a mountain goat; no fatigue over the last few holes.

Besides, when your doctor tells you to get more exercise, he doesn’t mean to go play golf – at least my doctor didn’t: “Golf is stop-and-go, Greg, you don’t get enough of a workout walking a little, stopping to hit a ball and then walking a little more.”

But golfing has got to count for something, doesn’t it? We’ve posed this question before, in this post, more than a year ago. But now we actually have some proof that walking the golf course is not only healthy, but it’s also a good way to get some exercise.

A recently published study entitled “Physical Activity Parameters for Walking Golf Participation: An Analysis of Volume and Intensity” from Mark D. Peterson (Department of Exercise and Wellness at Arizona State University) has provided us some interesting findings.

Mr. Peterson set-out to prove that the volume and intensity of activity while walking 18-holes could be pinpointed by using modern technology. He began by recruiting healthy men between 18 and 30 years of age at a local, average-sized (6,605 yards) golf course in Mesa, AZ. Each participant was required to walk 18-holes (from the same tee-box) while wearing an accelerometer, a pedometer and a heart-rate monitor. In addition, each participant had a GPS logging device attached to the back of their hats.

Each device recorded a different variable for the study. For example, the accelerometer recorded the “intensity of ambulatory physical activity,” which could then be measured against established standardized categories such as sedentary, light, moderate and vigorous activity. Meanwhile, the pedometer was used to calculate total steps taken during the round and the GPS measured total distance traveled. The heart monitor measured heartbeats per minute.

Mr. Peterson then took the data he had collected and measured it against recommended standards for health maintenance and wellness: “It has been recommended for health maintenance and wellness that individuals attempt to accumulate 7,000 and 13,000 steps, and/or 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, on all or most days of the week.”

Mr. Peterson’s data revealed walking the course EXCEEDED these recommendations.

On average, data showed the participants’ number of steps taken were at the higher-end of the spectrum (12,197 steps). Particular striking, Mr. Peterson’s data shows that the majority of activity while walking on the golf course was bucketed into the category of “Moderate/Vigorous” activity (e.g. on average, the golfer spent 105.4 minutes of the total 182 minutes on the course doing moderate to vigorous activity). In addition, results showed that participants’ heartbeats exceeded 100 beats per minute more than 65% of the time. The full study can be downloaded HERE.

While it’s true that walking the golf course results in fluctuating activity, it also appears true that the majority of that activity is exceeding the recommended standards for health maintenance and wellness. Hear that Doc? Golfing not only isn’t hurting my health, but it’s actually helping keep me in shape! Now I wonder what the opt-out clause on my gym membership contract is?

Despite the fact that Stinky Golfer Greg may have taught his doctor a thing or two about golf and exercise, he is in no way, shape or form qualified to be giving medical advice. Always check with your physician before using golf as a substitute for real exercise.


  1. Greg, golf does count as an aerobic exercise… and that comes from no less of an authority than Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Air Force researcher who developed the Aerobics Point System used to measure aerobic conditioning. According to Dr. Cooper, you can pass the Air Force 12-minute fitness test (which I believe he also developed) if you get 30 point’s-worth of aerobic exercise per week. For example, running 1 mile in 8 minutes is worth 5 points, and cycling 2 miles in less than 6 minutes is worth 2.5 points.

    Cooper rates 9 holes of golf (walking, of course!) at 1.5 points, and 18 holes at 3 points. Here’s where you can find a PDF of one of his point charts:

    Golf is on the 17th page.

    Cooper credited golf with aerobic benefits as far back as 1968, when his research hit the mainstream with his first book Aerobics. Tell your doctor that!

  2. Mike, I need to find a new Doctor.

  3. lol 😉

    Greg, you’ve got to remember that, unless your doctor has played golf, all he probably thinks about is the walking. (Although I doubt he realizes 9 holes of golf is about 2 miles.) If he actually played, he’d realize that the effort and range of movement involved in swinging the golf club (and let’s face it, most of us weekend players swing it A LOT) adds a considerable amount of effort to that walk.

    By the time you add in the effort of either carrying 40 lbs of clubs or pulling them in a cart, that 9 holes give you a pretty good workout overall.

    Perhaps your doctor just needs more exercise… !

  4. Forty pounds?!?

    Mike, if your golf bag weighs 40 pounds you need to get some new, lightweight equipment, or hire a Sherpa.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Rather use the cart as a portable cooler/keg too!

  6. You might want to take a good look at your Doc’s medical degree the next time you see him and make sure it is real.

    A 6,200 yard golf course is a 3.5 mile walk assuming you only walked the exact line they measured the course on. The real line you walk is significantly longer than that. Add in the distance from greens to tees the total gets closer to 6 or 7 miles. Add carrying 30 pounds of equipment and it is a major calorie burner.

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