Golf is a unique sport as you may even get health benefits just from watching it!

Spectators at golf events have been reported to walk significantly further than the 7,500 to 10,000 steps recommended daily for health – meaning you could be getting all of these benefits from a day at the golf!

The latest research, conducted at the European Tour’s 2016 Paul Lawrie Match Play, suggests that golf spectating can provide health enhancing physical activity; whilst also allowing spectators to spend time in green space, socialise with friends and family, and watch their sporting heroes compete in real life

Golf spectators have been show to average over 11,500 steps per day
Spectators could surpass minimum recommended amounts of physical activity
The latest research is the first to assess spectator physical activity while watching golf
Spectators rated ‘getting exercise’ as highly as ‘seeing their favourite sporting heroes’ at events


The Health Benefits of Spectating

Dr Andrew Murray explains more about the latest research into the health benefits of golf spectating, showing those who attend golf events could potentially gain benefits similar to those playing in them…

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Spectator Health Benefits Infographic

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Future Research

Further research could include:

  • Assessing how best to provide physical activity information to spectators at events
  • Larger and more representative samples allowing for a better estimation of accrued physical activity and potential gender and age differences
  • Whether golf events could be used as ‘teachable moments’ to help educate and inform people on the benefits of physical activity in general

The Research

‘An observational study of spectators’ step counts and reasons for attending a professional golf tournament in Scotland’

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by Andrew D Murray, Kieran Turner, Daryll Archibald, Chloe Schiphorst, Steffan Arthur Griffin, Hilary Scott, Roger Hawkes, Paul Kelly, Liz Grant, and Nanette Mutrie.

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Background – Spectators at several hundred golf tournaments on six continents worldwide may gain health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) during their time at the event. This study aims to investigate spectators’ reasons for attending and assess spectator physical activity (PA) (measured by step count).

Methods – Spectators at the Paul Lawrie Matchplay event in Scotland (August 2016) were invited to take part in this study. They were asked to complete a brief questionnaire with items to assess (1) demographics, (2) reasons for attendance and (3) baseline PA. In addition, participants were requested to wear a pedometer from time of entry to the venue until exit.

Results – A total of 339 spectators were recruited to the study and out of which 329 (97.2%) returned step-count data. Spectators took a mean of 11 589 steps (SD 4531). ‘Fresh air’ (rated median 9 out of 10) then ‘watching star players’, ‘exercise/physical activity’, ‘time with friends and family’ and ‘atmosphere’ (all median 8 out of 10) were rated the most important reasons for attending.

Conclusion – This study is the first to assess spectator physical activity while watching golf (measured by step count). Obtaining exercise/PA is rated as an important reason for attending a tournament by many golf spectators. Spectating at a golf tournament can provide HEPA. 82.9% of spectators achieved the recommended daily step count while spectating. Further research directly assessing whether spectating may constitute a ‘teachable moment’, for increasing physical activity beyond the tournament itself, is merited.


An Observational Study of Spectators’ Step Counts, and Reasons for Attending a Professional Golf Tournament in Scotland

Murray AD, Turner K, Archibald D, et al An observational study of spectators’ step counts and reasons for attending a professional golf tournament in Scotland BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2017;3:e000244. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000244

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The Relationships Between Golf and Health: A Scoping Review

Murray AD, Daines L, Archibald D, et al, The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review
Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 03 October 2016. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096625

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