Health & Golf – Mental well-being

From junior golfers to seniors the sport is a great way to improve and maintain mental health.

It’s a known fact golfing is a great way to exercise, enjoy the company of others, play a sport alone, manage decision making, help yourself live longer and simply enjoy life.

The listed aspects of golf benefits all trickle into another area of personal health, that’s mental health and well-being. Dr. Kim Dorsch is a Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina. She said most golf courses are tight-knit communities which complies with one of the most crucial aspects to mental health, the sense of being wanted.

“There is a real sense of community, everyone seems to know everybody and there is a feeling of belonging,” Dorsch told Golf Saskatchewan. “That’s really one of the basic psychological needs in order to have a higher level of well-being. We need to feel we belong.”

Other prominent aspects of golf and mental well-being Dorsch outlined was the handicapping and allowing everyone to compete on a level playing field as well as getting exercise at a leisurely pace and not particularly feeling like exercise.

Many sports are played outdoors but most have similar logistics such as a baseball diamond, football field, or soccer stadium. Golf is unique as no two courses are identical. Dorsch said being one with nature certainly increases mental health.

“You’re outside and when you do anything outside and get that connection to nature it has a definite positive aspect on well-being. There’s a lot of benefits to playing golf for sure,” she added.

Dorsch said sports in general can have positive effects on mental health. There is concerns to be weary of however, especially in team environments including alcohol abuse, unsafe sex, peer pressure and constant pressure to win. She said whatever people tend to become involved in there is positives and there isn’t a perfect prescription.

“There’s this whole push now that exercise is medicine,” Dorsch said. “It’s hard to generalize, there isn’t one specific personality that fits any one sports in particular. It depends on people’s preferences but obviously the benefits of physical activity are numerous.”

Another factor Dorsch highlighted for golf is the ability to play alone or within a small group. She said mentally large crowds is unpleasant for people, but golf allows time to self reflect and rest your mind.

“That was another reason in a study I saw, there is time for both being alone if that’s your preference or time for a small group. I know a lot of people like playing on their own. Just that time to get away, and think, just some alone time if that’s what you wish,” she explained.

Golf is also unique in the aspect you keep score on your own if you aren’t playing competitively. In tournament play you do as well but there is always someone watching over your shoulder to assist. Dorsch said being able to work on your own mind on the course whether it’s keeping score or making the decision of how to approach a shot bears fruit in everyday life choices.

“There is a lot of self teaching that goes on in a round of golf,” she said. “Taking that opportunity to recognize the potential of negative self talk and how that is impacting your performance. Realizing that in a golf situation can help you in other situations by recognizing negative thoughts. Just realizing negative goes on and is it ruining your enjoyment?”

For much more information on mental health and golf, click here.