Amid a growing body of evidence on the health impacts of the sport, the consensus aims to help current and would-be players maximize the health pros and minimize the health cons of golf, and to guide policy-makers and industry leaders on how best to make golf more inclusive and accessible and so encourage more people from all walks of life to take up the sport.
The statement draws on a systematic review of the available published evidence (342 eligible studies) and discussions among an international working group of 25 experts in public health and health policy, and industry leaders.
The agreement was reached on 79 statements in three areas. These set out what is currently known about golf's associations with health; the factors that may help or hinder take-up of the sport; and a series of recommendations for golfers, industry leaders, and policymakers on how best to maximize its health benefits, promote sustainability and widen participation.
The evidence shows that playing golf regularly is associated with longevity and reducing the risk factors for heart disease/stroke. And it can boost older people's strength and balance. The sport is also associated with good mental health and improving the overall health of those with disabilities.
Compared with other sports, the risk of injury is moderate, but as it's an outdoor activity, golfers may be more at risk of skin cancer.
Golf is sociable and gets people outdoors, connecting them with nature. It can provide moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, and its health benefits are greatest for players who walk around the course rather than opt for a golf cart.
While around 60 million people play golf at least twice every year, the participant profile is quite narrow: players tend to be middle-aged to older, male, of white European heritage, relatively well off, and living in North America, Europe, and Australasia.
And the sport is often perceived as expensive, male-dominated, difficult to learn, and not a game for the young or those on the lower rungs of the social ladder.
This can put people off. The sport needs to be more inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, and any such initiatives should be supported.
More people might be keen to take it up if golf were promoted as an enjoyable, lifelong outdoors activity that affords a sense of community and competitive challenge while providing some 'me time' as well as helping to fulfil recommended exercise quotas.
Golfers should aim to play for 150 minutes/week, or do less, but couple golf with other physical activity, and walk the course rather than ride a golf cart. Do warm-up exercises to cut the risk of injury and use sun-cream and wear collared shirts to minimize the risk of skin cancer.
The study appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine....