You don't have to be a professional golfer to know the benefits of the sport. It is great exercise, can help you stay mentally sharp and can be a social tool for making friends, team building and even closing business deals.
"Golf is a wonderful physical outlet," says Suzy Whaley, a PGA and LPGA professional who is also a golf instructor. "Whether walking or riding, a golf course provides the opportunity to spend time outside, and swinging a club offers all the opportunity to get exercise while enjoying a game and having fun."
By walking 18 holes, which is the equivalent of walking 5 miles, you can burn up to 2,000 calories, according to a study for the World Golf Foundation and GOLF 20/20 by the Walker Research Group LLC.
"Known as the 'game of a lifetime,' golf can be played by people of all body types and athletic abilities," says Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation. "It does require strength, endurance, strategy and resiliency, but repeated practice can enhance balance, flexibility, control and confidence."
"Playing golf on even a weekly basis can certainly improve your health and overall quality of life," he adds.
To make the most of your golf outings, avoid using the cart and walk instead. The World Golf Foundation study found, "golfers exceed 10,000 steps during a typical round of golf, which meets the guideline for exercise recommended by most medical and clinical physicians."
*Mental and Social Value
A game of golf can also benefit your mental outlook, since the sport challenges you to think.
"Golf is primarily a mental game, so if you can master the mental side of golf, you'll see improvements in how you handle other situations in your daily life," says Steve Siebold, a mental toughness coach?to athletes and author of "177?Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class." ??
Golf also gets you outside for fresh air and sunshine. And Mona says it can "relieve stress and get your mind off of day-to-day challenges while providing a sense of fulfillment."
Hitting the fairway may even boost your social and professional life.
"Socially speaking, golf is great," says Siebold, a golfer who's also a former professional tennis player. "It creates friendships and fosters camaraderie in a fun environment. In business, knowing how to play golf is one of the greatest skills an employee can have."
A survey of more than 400 business executives and CEOs, conducted for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., found 92 percent of respondents thought golf is a good way to make new business contacts, while 43 percent said they've made some of their biggest business deals while golfing.
*Reaping the Benefits
So how often should you tee off to enjoy the benefits? While once a week or more is ideal, every outing helps.
"The more they play the more benefits they will receive," says Whaley, who recommends programs like Get Golf Ready to help golfers get started with lessons.
"Regardless of your skill level, be patient and keep an open mind," Mona says. "Golf can be intimidating for new players."
That's why Siebold encourages golfers to make a six-month commitment to the game to see if it's a fit.
"Golf isn't as easy as some people think, and you can't just pick up a golf club and ball and expect to be great at it," he says. "It takes a lot of work and practice. But definitely go out and experience the atmosphere, what it's like to beat a bag of balls on the driving range, chip and putt on the practice green, and just what being out in the fresh air for a few hours feels like."