Winter brings with it an assortment of big events involving golf in the UAE. There’s the January Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which attracted South African golfers Ernie Els (a three-time champion at the event) and Louis Oosthuizen; US Masters Champion Sergio Garcia and Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood.
When the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf wrapped up, Irish player Shane Lowry had captured the title at the 18th hole over his South African playing partner Richard Sterne.
All this golf got us wondering – between the walking, the swinging, and the long hours – just how healthy is it for you?
“Golf isn’t a particularly big ‘workout’ type of sport,” says Simona Stanton, a UAE yoga instructor and golfer who has created special golf-yoga flows. “I always think of it more as a game.”
Yet it can be healthy — if you skip the golf cart. “When you walk the whole 18 holes, you walk around 8.5km and sometimes it’s very hilly.”
A study conducted by the Center for Health and Sport Science at the Rose Medical Center in Denver revealed that it’s possible to burn 721 calories per nine holes of golf, when carrying your own bag. Even riding in a cart burned 411 calories on average.
“Just swinging a golf club about 100 times uses up a significant amount of energy,” says the study director, Neil Wolkodoff.
There’s also the mental side of things, stresses Stanton. “You have to stay calm for around four to six hours and that’s not easy. And you must practice not losing your temper, which is important for real-life situations.”
“It is well-known that very often the player with the strongest mental game wins, not the golfer with the best technique,” she says.
And think of all the zen vibes you’re getting from the great outdoors, too.
“You might not realize how good all that is for you, especially if you’re used to office work, but connecting with nature is so important and most of the golf courses in Dubai are spectacular,” she says.
To improve your game, studies have shown that being fit pays off. If you’re out of shape, it’s easier to get out of breath.
“Your golf game will suffer,” says Wolkodoff.
To boost your anaerobic capacity, check out some of the gyms that are often attached to UAE golf clubs. At Emirates Golf Club, you’ll find a proper gym floor with plenty of equipment, plus panel tennis, fitness classics, squash and the pool. When you’re done you can grab a bite from the health-focused Roseleaf Cafe. Abu Dhabi Golf Club focuses on swimming lessons and tennis lessons, with options available to non-members as well.
If you are golfing regularly, Stanton suggests taking up a bit of yoga or, if that’s not your thing, attend one of the growing number of stretching classes cropping up at gyms and yoga studios. Golf is an unbalanced sport that works primarily one side of the body while creating a strong impact on the spine and lower back. Then there are the wrists, hips and shoulders, all which can be problematic for frequent golfers.
“Yoga helps you strengthen and increase flexibility,” advises Stanton. “Unless you know what muscles to engage you can get a lot of injuries – and trust me, most golfers do. That’s why a lot of the professionals do yoga regularly.”
Featured photo courtesy Simona Stanton.
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer