Is Hitting Golf Balls Good Exercise? Here’s The Data

There was a time when golf was considered a sport for old, overweight, and generally unhealthy folks. That’s no longer the case.

Just turn on a PGA Tour tournament today, and you’ll see that most golfers are now thin and fit.

Most professional golfers are now in incredible shape thanks to advances in nutrition, supplementation, and exercise. Speaking of which, does playing a round of golf or pounding balls at the driving range qualify as exercise?

Let’s take a look at what the research has to say.

 

Calories Burned Playing a Round vs Hitting Balls at The Range

Does golf qualify as exercise? According to this research from NutriStrategy, yes it does. However, does it qualify as “good” exercise? That all depends on what type of golf activity and how long you do it.

For example, playing a full round of 18 holes of golf burns more calories per hour than simply hitting golf balls at the driving range. All of that walking on the golf course burns off a lot more calories than just practicing your swing on the range.

There are also other factors to consider, like whether you walk the course while carrying your clubs or use a golf cart. Take a look at the following chart to see how many calories each golf activity burns per hour based on your weight.

Golf Activity Cals/Hr
(130 lbs)
Cals/Hr
(155 lbs)
Cals/Hr
(180 lbs)
Cals/Hr
(205 lbs)
Golf: Walking While Carrying Clubs 266 317 368 419
Golf: Walking but Using Pull Cart for Clubs 254 303 351 400
Golf: Riding in a Cart 207 246 286 326
Hitting Golf Balls at Driving Range 177 211 245 279

 

Tips to Make Your Next Round of Golf More of an Exercise

By using the above chart, we can give you some tips on how to make your next round of golf more effective at calorie burning. These suggestions may help you burn calories and even lose some weight (if that’s your goal).

1. Walk Instead of Riding in a Golf Cart

This tip is the most obvious. Walking is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise and can lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Most health experts agree that people need at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. 

Walking while carrying your golf clubs or even walking while using a pull cart would be considered moderate exercise. However, playing a round of golf while using a golf cart is likely light exercise.

As we learn from the above table, a 205-pound average golfer burns 93 more calories per hour by walking and carrying clubs than by riding in a golf cart. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up to a significant amount of extra calories burned over a four-hour round of golf.

Carrying your clubs on a regular basis can result in greater strength, which could give you a bit of power off the tee. If you aren’t able to carry your clubs, start off by using a pull cart instead. Doing this will help a 180-pound person burn an extra 65 calories per hour over using a golf cart.

2. If You Do Use a Cart, Spend Less Time in It

We know that most golfers prefer using a golf cart during their rounds. While that’s not ideal from an exercise standpoint, anything is better than nothing. You are much better off playing golf than simply sitting at home on the couch.

One way to burn some extra calories, even if you’re using a cart, is to not spend too much time sitting in it. You may be thinking, “Well duh, thank you Captain Obvious,” but stick with me.

The next time you are waiting on the tee box for the group in front to finish, do some stretching to increase your flexibility instead of just sitting in the cart. This will burn more calories, keep your muscles warm, and will make you less likely to suffer a strain or pull.

 

Tips to Make Hitting at The Range More of an Exercise

Even casual golfers know that to take strokes off their handicaps, they must spend lots of time honing their swings at the golf driving range.

The problem is that a 205-pound person burns 140 fewer calories per hour at the driving range versus playing golf on an actual course (if walking and carrying clubs). However, we have some tips that will help you get more exercise while at the golf range.

1. Stretch Before and After Your Range Session

Stretching before any form of exercise is a fantastic habit to develop. Before you begin any golf activities, make sure to warm up and stretch your shoulders, arms, lower back, hamstrings, buttocks, and hips.

Hold each stretch for 30 seconds before moving on to the next one.

2. Work Your Abdominals at the End of Your Practice Session

Just because you are at the driving range doesn’t mean you can’t give your abdominal muscles a good workout.

When you’re finished hitting golf balls, drop down on the mat and knock out some crunches and leg lifts. This will give you more core strength, which will eventually lead to more yardage off the tee and less chance of lower back strains.

A good drill is to hit 50-60 balls and then do 50-60 reps of some form of ab work. Some folks on the range may look at you kind of funny, but you aren’t there to impress them.

Remember, the purpose of a good range session is to lower your handicap and get a good amount of exercise.

3. Don’t Forget to Work on Your Short Game

Remember, the most efficient way to shoot lower scores is to improve your short game. Don’t leave without hitting several putts on the practice green and chip shots out of a bunker if possible.

Doing this will also extend your overall practice time and help you burn more calories.

 

Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.