How Reducing Your Weight Can Lower Your Golf Handicap

Is golf good for you? The short answer is yes. A systematic review of the available published evidence (a decent 342 studies) shows that playing golf regularly is associated with longevity and a reduction in the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Policy makers actually want to encourage more of us to play the sport as the benefits are many. It can boost strength, balance and muscle tone in older players and it is also associated with good mental health (probably due the combination of factors such as the fact that it gets you outdoors and helps with stress, as well as the social element involved). It is also associated with improved overall health for those with disabilities.

In relation to stress specifically, we know that regular exercise – even at a moderate level (the level of golf) may help to protect us against future anxiety and stress, according to the University of Maryland. In this way, golf can help reduce existing anxiety, but can also help you to maintain that reduced anxiety, even after the game of golf is finished.

Is It Really Exercise?

A golfer walks roughly four miles (or almost seven kilometres) and can burn as many as 1,000 calories during an average 18-hole round, with help from swinging clubs and carrying their own bag. Playing more spaced out or hillier courses will obviously burn more calorie than compact, flat courses. And, regardless of handicap level, sex, or course played, most subjects exceeded 10,000 steps during a typical 18-holes round of golf.

Try to ditch the golf buggy if you can as then the walking distance will drop to just about one mile and you will burn half (or less) of the calories. This means that playing two 18-hole rounds per week is a good way to meet the minimum exercise requirement.

But just remember that this is the minimum; for optimum health, it’s important to add in two or even three other sessions of aerobic activity (such as walking) and ideally some strength or resistance training (which we know is good for the bones but, in terms of weight, is crucial in helping to build metabolism-revving muscle). This is especially important for ‘seasonal golfers’ who really only take out their clubs from April onwards. In our climate, it’s crucial to fill the other months of the year with adequate exercise.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

The only so-called ‘problems’ that exist with golf is the risk of possible injury (particularly in the older age group – if no warm-up is done), the risk of skin cancer, if adequate sun protection is not worn and the way in which some players think that two rounds of golf each week is enough exercise!

Many players don’t play enough to get the heart-health benefits, which would mean playing 18 holes three to five times each week. Any less than that, although still beneficial to health, is just not enough. It’s necessary to add in extra, higher intensity exercise sessions once or twice a week on top of golf. Golf certainly has its place, but it’s important to add to that an activity that actually raises the heart rate (more on heart health here).

Recent research conducted by the World Health Organisation suggests that 32.7 per cent of Irish adults do not get enough exercise: that is, enough in terms of intensity or duration.

The Benefits For Retirees

Newly-retired adults are often leaving a structured working life (or child-rearing life) where they were constantly busy and they were experts in their area. Now they are entering a non-structured life , where they can feel at a loose end.

The shock of retirement can be startling for many. Newly retired people almost unanimously describe the early days— even months— of retirement as an acute adjustment. They suddenly have hours on end to ‘kill’ and can be at a loss about how to spend it (the rest of us may be jealous but most of us, particularly as we get older ourselves, can appreciate the challenge it can pose). The days can seem aimless and long and many retirees can suffer from mood swings and even depression.

This is where the game of golf can fit in perfectly! Having more time on your hands is a great opportunity to get out to the driving range and onto the course. Golf is a fantastically challenging game, and there’s always room to improve (get out that wallet for golf lessons!), so you won’t get bored.

There are also wonderful opportunities to play abroad in the sunshine and it’s a wonderful sport to play with a partner or friend. It is human nature to crave a sense of purpose, and without one, it is natural that panic might set in. A regular game of golf can create the structure on your day and week that you crave. Within this structure, new challenges (such as, hopefully, improving your game and lowering your handicap), friendships and social engagements can arise. At the same time, as you answer simple questions to build your Memoir, you will begin to discover new interests, desires, and direction. Alternatively, you may find yourself reawakening long-lost dreams and passions. A thrilling journey awaits.

Ways To Improve Your Game

In the past, if you wanted to improve your golf, you either bought a book or you took a lesson with your Pro. Today, those two options still exist; but you can also book a club fitting, a biomechanical assessment or even a session with a sports psychologist. Alternatively you can Google a wealth of online tips and advice. But the danger of this approach is that there are too many facets. When the ball curves left or right, you can come up with a myriad of reasons; you’re not flexible enough, you were five degrees from the outside, you didn’t commit and so on.

There’s lots of contradictory advice out there.

And the same applies to weight loss programmes; sometimes it’s better to focus on one, proven technique, such as Motivation, rather than dabbling with many. There is plenty advice online – both on how to improve your game of golf and also how to lose weight. But, to use it well, you really need to go into a one-to-one session with someone who knows what they are talking about. They (the golf Pro or weight loss consultant) will help you to, first and foremost, understand where your issues and challenges lie (find out how our weight loss consultants can help you).

Lifestyle Changes To Improve That Golf Swing

There’s no doubt that losing that extra weight (particularly in the mid-section) can help improve your swing, while becoming stronger can inject more power into your drive. And don’t forget that most of weight loss is down to the food you eat – so get into the kitchen and start putting effort in so that you eat more healthily and, just as importantly, that you enjoy the food you eat.

At Motivation, we have heard stories from many clients about how their game has improved (and their handicap has gone down) as a result of losing weight and becoming fitter. Some clients do find that they have to pay more attention to their balance for some time after losing weight. Naturally you will move a little better and quicker so there can be a tendency to get off balance. You may find it becomes easier to hit draws and harder to hit fades. For some, their swing can get longer.

Walking an 18-hole course requires effort, and that will certainly be more enjoyable (less huffing and puffing) if you have decent aerobic fitness. Add to this some flexibility moves – simple stretches in the morning or last thing at night – to help improve your mobility and swing (see below).

Some resistance training would also be highly beneficial, perhaps built into your stretching time. If we don’t use our muscles, particularly later in life, they simply shrivel up and become obsolete. The more we use our muscles, though, the better the chance that they stay in good condition and help to ward off conditions such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.

Golf Exercises For All Levels

Working with weights is hugely important, especially in later life, to avoid osteoporosis, stiffness, arthritis and other debilitating conditions, but it will also likely improve your game. Toning the muscles will help keep them strong, healthy and lean – which has the added effect of keeping your weight down too! Just make sure you get advice from a professional before embarking on a strength programme, even if you are working without equipment.

For those who are already quite fit, check out this Men’s Health 4-week programme for golf fitness.

Stretching before a round of golf will help prepare your body for the task at hand. Golf stretches The mechanics of the golf swing require flexibility, coordination, strength and stability. Golfers with poor mobility can develop compensatory adjustments to their swing that will lead to inaccuracy and injury. Also, golf stretches can improve your performance by promoting a fluid, full golf swing. Before you start your stretches, it’s a good idea to warm up with five to ten minutes of light activity, such as walking around the practice tee. Research shows that repeating stretches isn’t necessary; doing one set of golf stretches each day is ideal.

Look up this handy PDF which has golf specific strengthening and stretching exercises.

Mental Exercises Applicable To Weight Loss

Tiger Woods was quoted in his book, How I Play Golf as saying that the secret of the mental game of golf was the ability to, “Instantly recall past success and LET GO of failure.” For most of us, this runs contrary to the programming we have received all of our life. Think back to your school days and all those red pen marks on your copybook. The correct answers weren’t underlined. We are transfixed as a culture with reality TV where the shows look to highlight a person’s weaknesses or inadequacies so that we can vote them off.

The same could be applied to weight loss. Rather than always looking to how what we’re doing WRONG, start thinking about what you’re doing RIGHT. Experts believe that this mindset can transform performance in all facets of life, from weight loss to competition golf, by rewiring the brain to focus on what you want to happen, as opposed to dwelling on failure.

I recently watched a Darren Clarke interview and was mesmerized by his ability to handle the pressure that comes with a big tournament. He said he didn’t think of the outcome of each shot (as in, am I going to win this?). Instead, he took it shot by shot and didn’t look to far ahead. He seemed to even be enjoying himself under intense scrutiny. He only saw himself and the ball. In ways, a similar attitude can be applied to weight loss. Some of our most successful clients at Motivation have told us that they don’t look too far ahead but, instead, take things day-by-day and celebrate each success along the way.

Healthy Snacks For Golf

The best snacks contain protein and healthy fats that won’t slow you down or cause a spike in your blood sugar.

– A protein bar

– Hard-boiled eggs, wrapped in foil

– Nuts (almonds/walnuts) but go easy on portions

– Salami or bacon, in a zip-lock bag (eaten cold)

– Babybel cheese (or other cheese)

– Carrot sticks, in a zip-lock

– Apple with some cheese or handful of nuts

– Water – it’s essential to stay hydrated throughout the game

Best of luck golfers – here’s to a wonderful summer on the fairways!