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Walking the Golf Courses of Scotland

View of the Inverness Golf Course from the clubhouse.

My wife and I took an eight-day trip through Scotland.  The countryside is beautiful and driving on the left side of very slender roads is an adrenaline-charged experience.  Scotland is the birthplace of golf and the Scots are proud participants in this ancient sport.  I was surprised to find that the Scots walk when they golf.  In Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh, up and down the stunning hillsides of Skye–no golf carts.  People of all ages easily travel through eighteen holes of fairly hilly golf course terrain.  Most of the over forty golfers used push carts, and I saw several sixty plus golfers who used a battery-powered cart.  All of the younger golfers carried their clubs.  I suggest American golfers learn a lesson from the Scots.

Walking is a “use it or lose” neuromotor skill that needs consistent reinforcement.  Much of the normal daily ambulation we should be performing has been eliminated by moving sidewalks, escalators, cars, valets…  Walking the golf course is a wonderful way to reboot the neural connections that keep you walking strong.

Most American golfers already sit too much.  I have not found a golf cart with proper seat ergonomics.  Poor sitting posture combined with the less than shock-absorbing suspension of a golf cart creates damaging compressive forces on the spine.  The stress of riding in a cart added to the common problems of limited hip mobility and poor swing mechanics that drives the back, knee and / or hip pain that is prevalent in golfers.

I did not see any obese golfers while in Scotland.  The USA obesity rate sits at just under 40% and hefty golfers abound.  Walking is a mode of propulsion that is unique to humans and critical for your metabolic health.  Any physical therapist can tell you how quickly a patient physically deconditions when he or she loses the capacity to walk.

The final argument for walking the golf course and avoiding the cart comes from an older and proud Scottish golfer.  “Aach! That’s not golf.”

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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