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Mental Health Benefits of Golfing

April 6, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Almost from the moment that golfing became a major competitive sport, it has attracted significant ridicule from the rest of the sporting world. Caricatures of golf over the ages point to it being the pastime for the elderly or idle rich or something for those who cannot be bothered to actually run during a sporting activity. There are comments about the number of clubs a golfer needs, the way many golfers simply drive around the green, the use of caddies, and more. 

 

Like many things, though, golf may be mocked because it is misunderstood. The different parts of golfing may not be the most physically taxing, but they include major components of proven mental health treatments that can be particularly important for the elderly or stressed.

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Unlike many other competitive sports, golf is played almost exclusively outdoors in games that can take multiple hours. This will significantly boost the golfer’s vitamin D levels, a clinically proven method of treating depression, schizophrenia, and seasonal affective disorder in the adult or geriatric populations. Fresh air and a change of scenery have also been observed to have positive effects on those suffering from these conditions, and frequent trips to the golf course will supply both. 

 

Mental exercise is a significant factor in warding off the decay of one’s faculties. Golf provides an opportunity to use judgment and calculation in different ways every game, providing a continually shifting set of challenges to keep minds sharp. Hand-eye coordination and body posture can be incorporated as well, preventing the atrophy that so often accompanies age.

 

For the vast majority of golfers, with mental health concerns or without, the game becomes not only a sporting event but a social one. The sport is played in teams of four and, in all fairness, does move far slower than most others. Banter and possibly some good-natured ribbing are the inevitable result; these interactions are recognized by mental health experts as one of the simplest ways to ward off dementia, paranoia, and other severe disorders that have their roots in an insular existence.

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Practicing Self Care

Practicing Self Care

For those still active, but in positions of extreme stress, golf provides a healthy break from the rigors of daily life. The competitive aspect of the game (as well as the fine calculation of lie, hawk, and which club to use) provide superb distractions from whatever troubles may be waiting once you finish your game. Even if you do decide to talk out your troubles on the green, it will be in an open setting away from the stuffy surroundings of a home or office. This can give players a new and different perspective that often leads to tackling the problem in a more creative and effective manner, whatever the problem may be.

 

On top of all of this, it should be noted that the average golf course spans between six and nine kilometers, and that the game is often played with a rule that players must walk between holes. This makes golf beneficial to the body as well as the mind–especially if the player is carrying his or her own bag.

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