The Physical Benefits of Walking when you Golf

Study Discusses the Physical Benefits of Walking when you Golf

If you have golfed before, then you know that walking is a better workout than riding in a motorized cart. But how much better?

Scientific data is now available to quantify it.

Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver, recently completed a study of these benefits at Inverness Golf Club in Denver, Co.

The Study

Wolkodoff found eight male volunteers, aged 26 to 61 with handicaps between 2 and 17, to participate in an experiment that would analyze energy consumption and scoring while playing several nine hole rounds of golf.

The participants wore equipment that measured such variables as heart rate, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production and distance covered per round.

Each golfer then played nine holes at Inverness in four different formats:

1) Carrying a bag
2) Pushing a cart
3) With a caddie
4) In a motorized golf cart

Walkodoff found that over a 9 hole round:

– A Golfer burned an average of 721 calories carrying a bag
– A Golfer burned an average of 718 calories pushing a cart
– A Golfer burned an average of 613 calories using a caddy
– A Golfer burned an average of 411 calories riding in a cart

So over an 18 hole round we can assume that:

– A Golfer will burn roughly the same number of calories carrying a bag as pushing a cart
– A Golfer will burn 216 more calories by carrying a bag versus taking a caddy
– A Golfer will burn 620 more calories by carrying a bag versus taking a cart

So, it can be estimated that walking when you golf burns almost twice as many calories as riding in a motorized cart, which is a significant physical benefit.

We also know, that walking when you golf takes a certain amount of fitness that can be improved through methods such as walking, jogging, cycling and yoga, off the course.

Some commentary on the benefits of physical conditioning for walking golfers:

Wolkodoff noted that players reached their peak heart rates at the top of two taxing, uphill holes. When they were carrying or pushing the cart, the peak heart rates went past their anaerobic thresholds, and Wolkodoff noticed a marked spike in scoring on the tougher of the two holes under these circumstances.

He attributes it to the buildup in lactic acid, which decreases fine motor skills.

Returning below the threshold took 2 minutes to 3 minutes in some cases.

This information supports the notion that aerobic and anaerobic conditioning off the course will improve performance and endurance on the course.

Weightlifting or other strength building activities will also benefit golfers who carry a bag or push a cart, because the stronger your arms and legs, the easier it is to climb hills without fatigue.

So if you walk when you play, it is a good idea to maintain solid physical condition by participating in activities such as jogging, spinning, yoga and strength conditioning.


  1. The reason I walk golf courses is so I don’t have to do any of that nonsense. Jogging and weight lifting are utterly boring and only injure you. The only thing you need is a bottle of booze to drown out the memories of that 124 you shot earlier. Practice and exercise do not work! I’ve tried it. Their are people that are naturally good at the game and some that are not. You can either swing a golf club or you can’t. Golf takes NO PHYSICAL ABILITY. Thus, it is not even close to a sport unless you walk. You wont see me in a gym or at a driving range any time soon.

  2. While I might agree to some extent with the principle of walking a course, there are some factors that need to be addressed. One is that older players cannot always walk a course and still want to play. In fact, one will find more senior golfers on a course during the week than younger ones. Are these golfers then refused the ability to golf because they need to ride?? I am one of those seniors and I need to ride. I play well over 150 rounds of golf every year. I am a member of two courses and without a cart the courses would be denied my annual membership. I walk , but only can on fairly even surfaces and accoring to my heart doctor, that type of walking is better than any I would achieve on a course as one does not kepp a continuous heart rate as one has to stop and that is not an adequate measure of keeping an elevated heart rate for more than 30 minutes. The second issue is that there seem to be more senior members on many golf courses than younger golfers. Third, msot older golfers have more discretionary dollars to spend on equipment, etc.
    Just my point of view.

  3. Hi Gary,

    The Walking Golfers Society advocates the many benefits of walking when you golf. If for physical reasons it is impossible to walk then taking a cart is necessary to continue playing the game and we fully understand that. I assure you that most people I see taking carts are not doing so for “physical reasons”, in fact many modern golf courses encourage people to take a cart. These are the issues we need to address as a golfing nation – the game is more enjoyable when you walk, better for your body and helps keep you in shape with what can certainly be considered easy exercise versus alternatives like running or cycling. My 85 year old grandmother still walks several times a week and the only people I ever see taking a cart in the UK and Ireland are those who REALLY need to which is totally understandable.

  4. I think walking is best with a caddy. A double strap bag is just like a backpack which stresses/strins the neck and shoulder muscles making them tight and tense hurting the swing. A one strap bag is too much weight on a side at a time causing similars strains and imbalances, not good for a free fluid swing.

  5. Bob – A push cart is another good option – especially on flat courses. Very low impact on your body.

  6. I understand why you are a little annoyed with your swing, but disclaiming every bit of conventional wisdom isn’t going to improve your game. Your problem is probably that you are putting to much throttle on your swing. Make it smooth and thorough. If you do that then where is the ball gonna go but down the fairway? Practice helps. Add the bells and whistles later……. Anyway…..I walked the course today and was surprised to find how many calories I burned. I was tired, sore, and hungry by the last three holes (which was affecting my swing.) BUT, If I had gotten a cold drink and snack after 9 holes (and my golf shoes really need some insoles) I would have been great throughout the game. It really isn’t that bad to go without the cart. Stop being lazy and look at the facts; it is cheaper, healthier, about as fast, and yeah. I like walking.

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