The Science Bit: Golf Spectating Health Benefits

Golf provides a unique spectators experience as unlike most sports in which spectators are confined to a single seat; spectators at golf tournaments are free to walk the course in pursuit of a glimpse of their favourite players.

This may provide an opportunity for health enhancing physical activity to more than 10 million spectators during the several hundred golf tournaments played across 6 continents each year(1, 2).

Historically research involving golf spectators has focused mainly on motivation for attendance, concluding that watching “star players” was the main motivation for attending(1, 3-5). However a recent study from The University of Edinburgh, thought to be the first of its kind, looked at both motivation for attending and potential health enhancing physical activity from golf spectating(6).

Murray Et al conducted a cross-sectional study consisting of two linked elements: a questionnaire focused around motivation for attendance completed on arrival to the course, after which a pedometer was used as measure of step-count from the time spectators entered the course to the time they exited.

Click Here to View the Full Research Paper Online [BMJ Journals]

Results from the questionnaire highlighted “fresh air”; “exercise/physical activity” and “spending time with family and friends” were equally as important motivators for spectator’s attendance as watching “star players”.

Murray et al found that on average spectators took 11,589 steps with 82.9% achieving their daily physical activity target(7).

These finding are supported by unpublished data from the 2012 Ryder cup in which tag points were used to assess spectator’s movement around the course and found 20,000 spectators walked five miles or more(8).

Murray et al concluded that health and well-being benefits may be as important to golf spectators as watching “star players”, golf provides spectators with potentially health enhancing physical activity.

Further research into the potential “teachable moment” for increasing physical activity beyond the tournament itself is warranted.

The Golf & Health Project is actively involved in research trying to further quantify the unique health benefits for golf spectators. However from the limited evidence available it would seem that golf spectators could gain health enhancing physical activity whilst walking the fairways with their sporting icons. This is something that policy makers and tournament organisers should take into account when organising and promoting events around the world.


  1. Robinson MJ, Trail GT, Kwon H. Motives and points of attachment of professional golf spectators. Sport Management Review. 2004;7(2):167-92.
  2. Strain T, Fitzsimons C, Foster C, Mutrie N, Townsend N, Kelly P. Age-related comparisons by sex in the domains of aerobic physical activity for adults in Scotland. Preventive medicine reports. 2016;3:90-7.
  3. Lyu SO, Lee H. Market segmentation of golf event spectators using leisure benefits. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing. 2013;30(3):186-200.
  4. Hansen H, Gauthier R. Spectators’ views of LPGA golf events. Sport Marketing Quarterly. 1993;2(1):17-25.
  5. Hansen H, Gauthier R. The professional golf product: spectators’ views. Sport Marketing Quarterly. 1994;3(4):9-16.
  6. Murray AD1, Turner K1,3, Archibald D3, Schiphorst C1, Griffin S4,5, Scott H1,6, Hawkes RA4,7,, Kelly P1, Grant L8, Mutrie N1. . An observational study of spectators’ step counts, and reasons for attending a professional golf tournament in Scotland. . 2017.
  7. Tudor-Locke C, Craig CL, Thyfault JP, Spence JC. A step-defined sedentary lifestyle index:< 5000 steps/day. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism. 2012;38(2):100-14.
  8. AD M. golf and health – spectating 2017.

Click Here to Find Out More About the Health Benefits of Golf Spectating

Golf & Health Project

By Golf & Health Project