The game of golf was intended to be played while walking the course…
The Scots certainly did not have access to any golf carts back as early as 1457, which is the earliest reference to the game that began in Scotland. In 1744, the first known rules of the game were established and we can be certain that those rules never accounted for a golfer riding in a golf cart since not even the car was invented, never mind a golf cart. In fact, the first golf cart didn’t debut until 1932 with the purpose of transporting people with disabilities. So 475 years of golf were played walking the course.
The golf cart was not really accepted as a new concept to playing the game until the 1950s, which saw the introduction of the electric golf cart. During these years, companies such as EZ-GO, Club Car, and Cushman emerged and began manufacturing golf carts. The game would never be the same after the first golfer made the decision to ride the course for their round.
Today, with the game being played around the world in many countries with many traditions, there exists a debate as to whether it’s better to walk the course or ride. The one main benefit of walking the course versus riding a golf cart would be the fact that it better preserves the golf course conditions as well as its environment.
Golfers come in all ages, shapes and sizes but share the simple reasons for playing the game—social interaction, exercise, and for many, the personal challenge and competition. We can look at the benefits of walking the course as a way to better serve as more of an opportunity to socialize, talk, and exchange ideas with fellow golfers. Two golfers to a cart limits the social interaction during the round, with gossip and stories shared mainly between you and your fellow rider. Walk the fairways from tee to green and now you have a wide open forum for discussion. Everybody has a good golf story, so why not share it with three friends and not just one.
Walking has been said to be one of the best cardio exercises that a person can do. We all at some point in our lives strive to be healthier and more fit, so walking makes perfect sense and what better excuse to walk then by playing a round of golf. So maybe the hot dog and beer does not go so well while walking, but a perfect substitute would be a bottle of water in the golf bag and an apple or banana.
Scientific researchers in Sweden found that walking a round of golf equated to a 40 to 70 percent intensity of a maximum aerobic workout (assuming 18 holes played). In another study, cardiologist Dr. Edward A. Palank’s study showed that golfers that walk reduced their levels of bad cholesterol while keeping their good cholesterol steady; the control group of riding golfers failed to show those same results.
Also, according to Golf Science International, a researcher named Gi Magnusson calculated that four hours of playing golf while walking is comparable to a 45 minute fitness class.
Another study conducted at the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver, Colorado concluded that walking nine holes on a hilly course is equivalent to a walk of 2.5 miles, compared to 0.5 miles when using a cart, and that a golfer who walks 36 holes a week is burning nearly 3,000 calories.
So forget the annual gym membership, two 18-hole rounds of golf walked each week at your local golf club will give you a healthier life no matter what your age.
Have we convinced you yet to start thinking at least to walk your next round of golf? Well if not, here is one more benefit for you. If you watch the PGA and LPGA tour players on television this weekend you might learn a thing or two. These golfers are conditioned athletes that benefit from walking the course to remain loose during their round. They say that they get a better feel for the course they are playing when walking. They see different things on the course when walking from tee to green. They are always gathering information and assessing the course for their next round.
An article in the Northern Ohio Golf Association publication Fairways offered suggestions for beginners or veteran riders who want to walk but aren’t yet in shape for it:
- Walk alternate holes during a round, so that by the end of your round you’ve walked nine holes.
- Walk one set of nines, ride the other.
- If you are at a course that requires carts, walk down the fairway to your ball while your partner brings the cart up.
- If playing with a partner who rides, ride only on the cart path and walk to and from the cart to your ball on every hole.
It’s also a good idea for walkers to look after their backs by either using a push cart to carry their bag, or by switching from a single-strap bag to a double-strap bag. Golfers can also consider a motorized caddy, which completely relieves the golfer of the need to carry or pull a bag.
So take some good advice—try to play the game as it was meant to be played. If you are a walker, then congratulations on your efforts to uphold the tradition of the game and your personal health. If you are thinking about making the change from golf cart to caddy cart then you should be commended for your efforts. If you have to slowly make the transition from maybe riding 9 holes and walking the back 9, then that’s a very good start. Whatever your decision may be to play the game of golf, just keep playing and let the tradition of this wonderful game live on forever.
Richard W. Nagle