Golf, just like many other outdoor sports, requires physical exertion that helps burn calories. From walking 18 holes carrying a 30-pound bag to riding 9 holes in a golf cart, there are many ways to burn calories playing golf.
So, how many calories does golf burn?
Golfers burn approximately 1,500-2,000 calories by playing an 18-hole round of golf. The number of calories burned by playing golf varies widely across golfing activities due to exertion level. Activities include hitting balls on the driving range, walking 9 or 18 holes, or riding in a cart for a round of golf.
The physical exertion that burns calories comes from swinging a golf club, walking up and down hills, carrying a golf bag, and squatting up and down to pick up golf balls and put tees into the ground.
The important distinction to remember with measuring the number of calories burned while playing golf is that it’s impossible to calculate the exact number of calories being burned. There are so many factors that affect that number including age, weight and gender as well as geographic and environmental conditions like temperature and elevation change.
How Far Do You Walk During a Round of Golf?
A golfer can expect to walk between 3 ½ – 6 miles per round of golf with the difference coming in whether or not the golfer is riding in a golf cart or walking the golf course.
Several factors that influence how much walking a golfer can expect over the course of an 18-hole round including:
- The total distance of the golf course. There are usually 3-6 sets of tees on a golf course, each with different lengths to match the playing abilities of all types of golfers. Most tee markers will range from 5,500-5,700 yards at the forward tee box to 6,800-7,000 yards from the back tee box. For reference, 6,800 yards equals just under 4 miles.
- The number of shots taken. A golfer that hits fewer shots is likely to be playing better, which means they have better accuracy and hit the ball down the middle of the fairway. With fewer deviations on the straight line from tee to green, the golfer will take fewer steps.
- The distance between two holes or the distance from the cart path to the tee box and putting green. If walking the golf course, the distance between the putting green of one hole and the tee box of the next hole can be a major factor in how far a golfer walks. Golf courses built-in or near housing developments will often feature long stretches between holes as the course weaves in, around and through streets and neighborhoods. Additionally, many resort-style courses will feature tee boxes and greens set off away from the cart path so golfers will have to endure taking more steps.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing 9 Holes? (With and Without a Cart)
A golfer riding in a cart for 9 holes can expect to burn approximately 400-500 calories. However, if the same golfer opts to walk instead of riding in a cart, they should anticipate burning 600-700 calories, depending on whether they carry their own clubs or use a push cart.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing 18 Holes? (With and Without a Cart)
To determine how many calories a golfer would burn playing 18 holes with a cart, one simply should double the caloric output from playing 9 holes. So the typical golfer should expect to burn between 800-1,000 calories per round.
Skipping the golf cart, the walking golfer can expect to burn well more than double the 9-hole effort at 1,500-2,000 calories per round of golf.
How Many Calories Are Burned on the Driving Range?
Online calorie calculators estimate that an hour of hitting balls on the driving range for a person weighing roughly 150 lbs. will burn about 200 calories. Obviously, it depends on what a golfer practices on a driving range. Spending time putting or practicing chipping will burn fewer calories than repeatedly swinging clubs at full speed.
What Other Health Benefits Does Golf Offer?
In October of 2020, the R&A (golf’s international governing body) published their golf and health report to educate golfers and non-golfers on the physical and mental benefits of the game. The comprehensive overview of the four-year study suggests that golf is “a health-enhancing activity for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds”.
The World Health Organization calling for sports to advocate for the benefits of their enjoyment to counteract the epidemic of physical inactivity-related diseases suffered by much of the world’s populations was the impetus for conducting the report.
Here are a few of the findings from the R&A Golf and Health Report study:
- On average, golfers live five years longer than non-golfers. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found a 40% reduction in mortality rates among members of the Swedish Golf Federation. This statistic was uniformly found across gender, age and socio-economic background.
- Golf helps combat disease. The physical activity of golf can prevent and treat major chronic diseases like diabetes, breast and colon cancer and depression as well as lower risks associated with heart disease and strokes (cholesterol and blood pressure).
- Golf boosts social interaction. Playing golf can reduce anxiety and dementia and for seniors, social interaction decreases isolation which is the biggest health risk factor for that age demographic.
- Time in nature reduces stress. The natural features of golf course environments like water, biodiversity, spatial variety and light patterns help to reduce stress and induce calm. The sun also provides much-needed Vitamin D for our skin and fresh air is good for the lungs.
Tips for Healthier Golf: New and Regular Golfers Alike
- Consult a doctor before playing a lot of golf. Despite all the health benefits included in playing golf, the nature of the swing requires some measure of physical health. That said, if you are new to the game and suffer from back, knee, hip, shoulder or wrist injuries, it’s best to visit a doctor first and express your interest in picking up the game. Golf is a game that can be enjoyed for one’s entire life signaling that it requires a commitment to maintaining a certain active lifestyle to ensure longevity. So pay a visit to a doctor and make sure all is well for you to enjoy the game for your lifetime.
- Start slow and build up. Too often golfers go to the driving range with the mindset that the more balls you hit the better you will get in a shorter amount of time. But with golf, quality is more important than quantity. The average golfer over a 9-hole round will take about 50 swings so good advice is to limit yourself to the same amount of swings it would take to play a 9 or 18 hole round. Repeated pressure on joints in the body may cause long-term health issues. Golf is a non-contact sport but the swing’s forceful nature and required contortion can wreak havoc on wrists, hips, backs, shoulders and knees.
- Take lessons from a PGA Golf Professional. Golf lessons will provide improved posture and coordination which will cut down on injuries brought on from swing flaws. As one improves in golf, less effort is required to hit the ball well and potential injuries become less of a risk.
- Carry less stuff when you walk. If you are interested in walking more when you play golf, consider purchasing a walking or Sunday golf bag. A walking bag is significantly lighter than a standard cart golf bag and the fewer pounds in weight will pay dividends on your energy level at the end of a long round. A Sunday golf bag is smaller than a walking bag and is designed to hold the minimum amount of equipment necessary to play. Additional items include cutting back on the number of golf balls you bring or leaving the umbrella and rain gear behind if the weather looks nice.
- Invest in a push cart. For those that like to walk but don’t want to carry their bag, a push cart is a great option. Pushing or pulling your bag doesn’t necessarily decrease the number of calories you burn playing golf and the added advantage of exerting less energy carrying clubs makes a push cart a worthwhile purchase for many golfers. Push carts can get expensive so explore used options if cost is a prohibitive factor.
- Buy a good pair of golf shoes. Listen to your podiatrist and take care of your feet. Many golf shoe companies now make great shoes designed for people who like to walk. Let’s face it, taking 15,000-20,000 steps in uncomfortable shoes makes burning calories a lot less fun.
- Exercise to play golf. Yoga, pilates and other low-impact stretching style exercises will provide golfers of all ages and abilities with increased flexibility and strength as well as calming and breath control techniques that improve one’s ability to focus. Even just a 10-minute stretching routine before playing golf will decrease the likelihood of injury.