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As one of the few outdoor activities deemed safe from the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, golf courses in the United States hosted 50 million more golf rounds than the previous year. And, due to motorized golf cars being put on the shelf because of strict distancing regulations, more and more golfers returned to the natural state of the game and began walking the fairways again. A few of the long-held benefits of walking the golf course include a better understanding of the topography of the lie, more time to think about the next shot, target awareness, correct club selection, increased rhythm and lower scores. But many players forgot just how beneficial walking can be for their overall health in addition to their golf game.

A recent article from the New York Times (subscription required) outlined hundreds of previous studies linking playing golf to increased health benefits, one of which showed the death rate of golfers to be 40 percent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status – a roughly translated five-year increase in life expectancy.

Another study conducted in 2008 by Neil Wolkodoff, the director of the Colorado Center for Health and Sport Science showed walking and carrying a bag while playing golf expended the most energy, averaging 721 calories burned over just nine holes. That number is likely to double over the course of a full, 18-hole round, showing a positive correlation between playing golf and increased health benefits.

“Golf is not the same exercise as running or using an elliptical, but it’s got appeal as part of a health routine,” said Wolkodoff. “People ought to expend 2,500-3,000 calories per week. If people go to the gym three times a week and play golf twice a week, they can hit that number.”

Aside from obvious health benefits, the ability to walk golf courses while staying safe has had additional advantages to the game of golf and the communities who invest in it – inclusion and diversity. According to Kemper Sports who was quoted in the same New York Times article, new walking golfers coming to the game for the first time are more likely to be female and younger than 35. More than 26 percent of the new golfers were 18-34 years old, representing a four-percent increase above the national average.

While walking 18 holes is unlikely to replace motorized golf cars and the dozens of new ways to find one’s way around the golf course like scooters and golf boards, there’s now another reason to give walking a try again – your health. It’s just a walk in the park.