A recent boom in the popularity of golf amongst young men is shining a light on the sport's mental health and social impacts
The link between golf and improved mental health is strong enough for golf activities to be used as a form of therapy in a 2019 study. The results show mental health benefits from playing the game—even when the golfing gods are not with you.
Here are six great reasons golf is good for your mental health.
1. Golf teaches resilience
Golf is a tricky sport to master consistently, with expert timing, flexibility, speed, technique and balance required as you swing a club somewhere in the region of 80–110 mph. It is inevitable that you will hit poor shots as well as good. It requires humility and mental strength to recover from such miscalculations.
"Golf teaches us to accept victories and failures equally and carry on to the end"
As sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella says in his aptly titled book, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, “A golfer has to learn to enjoy the process of striving to improve. That process, not the end result, enriches life.”
Golf teaches us to accept victories and failures equally and carry on to the end. Each of the 18 holes is another chance to persevere, to strive. It is an excellent mindset to parallel. Resilience is essential to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of life.
2. Being in nature
There is little doubt that the chaos and uncertainty of recent times have been challenging for mental health.
One of the benefits of golf is being out in nature. You can switch off technology, news and social media and focus on a task. It can provide a sense of calm and clarity. According to the mental health charity Mind, spending time in green spaces or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit your well-being. Getting outdoors has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anger.
Playing golf is a great way to get outdoors
There’s one other important aspect here: Vitamin D. This nutrient is equally important for both mental and physical wellness. There is enough evidence to support the claim that deficiency in vitamin D can cause symptoms of depression.
Golfers receive the benefits of sufficient vitamin D production in the body through increased exposure to sunlight.
3. Moderate exercise reduces anxiety
Golf is a moderate form of exercise proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Playing golf helps to combat anxiety by keeping your brain in an active problem-solving mode. You can focus more on the game and less on the things that cause you to feel anxious or sad.
"Playing golf helps to combat anxiety by keeping your brain in an active problem-solving mode"
The exercise and social exchanges that are involved with playing golf help to release endorphins that naturally reduce anxiety and depression, especially when you hit that once-in-a-lifetime shot over the water into the heart of the green.
If that isn't enough reason to pick up your clubs, a 2009 Swedish study by the Medical University Karolinska Institutet showed that the moderate exercise undertaken in the sport results in a five-year increase in life expectancy for golfers.
4. Social interaction
Golf can be a solo game played against the course, but it is typical to play in groups of two to four golfers. Playing sports with other people helps boost your self-esteem and social skills, benefiting your overall mental well-being.
Golf is a social sport
A typical round might take over three hours, providing a large chunk of social time, interacting with your group, other golfers on the course, greenkeepers and club professionals. This time can be lifesaving for some people—particularly for young men who find it difficult to express feelings in traditional settings to talk about mental health with friends.
There are many online forum threads with titles such as Golf Saved My Life. Golf provides meaning and social interaction that helps people recover from hard times like bereavement or marriage breakdowns.
Friendly or with a little edge, competition can be good for you. When done correctly, a competitive round of golf encourages you to challenge yourself and improve your skills.
"Seeing gradual improvement provides a greater sense of self-belief and self-worth"
You can even measure your improvement with the golf handicap system over time. Perhaps the most satisfaction comes from seeing progress in performance against playing partners. Seeing gradual improvement provides a greater sense of self-belief and self-worth.
6. Golf as therapy
The 2019 study on golf as a therapy examined how people with substance use disorders or mental health issues responded to structured golf activities.
There are mental health benefits associated with exercise in general
The study looked at how the participant's physical and mental health, social interactions and everyday activities improved during golf activities. It also examined how they felt about their overall participation in the golf therapy group.
The primary topic from the data was "Shaping a New Direction in Life". The participants revealed enhanced physical fitness, the establishment of a social gathering space, increased attention and concentration, practical help and support, and decreased mental symptom burden.
It is never too late to start or get back in to golfing. Why not start start golfing now and reap the beifits, with plenty of beautiful courses to choose from throughout the world. All you need is some golf clubs and the desire, just contact your local club to show your interest and they will be happy to assist.
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