By Robert Bicknell
I recently received in my inbox an article claiming that people should “play more golf”.
By itself, that would normally generate a snort of derisive laughter, followed by some snarky remarks. As a golf professional who teaches people to play golf, manages golf clubs and who does everything possible to promote the game of golf (such as bringing it to northern Vietnam in 1992), of course I think people should play more golf.
But then I got to thinking about it.
Yes, thinking is a very dangerous activity for me and many experts have urged me to refrain from doing it for fear of what would result … Yet, as it’s also Autumn in the North Eastern US and the foliage has begun to turn some amazing colours, I began to think about the health benefits of golf and, can the game make a difference in people’s health in general and, perhaps, their mental health?
Well, the old adage of “a bad day on the golf course is better than a good day in the office” is usually correct – even when you have a horrible round of golf, at least you were with friends and getting some exercise, which is the point in the first place.
Believe it or not, all the frustration you get during the game will be gone before the first after-round beer is consumed.
During a round of golf, you can expect to walk approximately 8.5 km just on the course, but if you add in all the other walking involved, such as from the car park, to the restaurant, etc, it can add up to around 9.5 km, and during that time, you can expect to burn roughly 629 calories for nine holes (with a caddie). If you lay off the beer and eat a nice bowl of noodles with lots of veggies at the halfway kiosk, you would increase your health benefits even further.
So, 18 holes of golf does benefit your overall physical health, but what about your mental health?
I can say from experience that just being out there with the warm sun on your face and the sound of birds tweeting their little heads off brings a calm unlike any other. For me, personally, I find that anytime I get especially stressed, the best place for me to be is on the golf course.
As I’ve said in previous columns, there is nothing like walking on a course in New England with the autumn leaves crunching underfoot and the special smell which wafts through the trees at that time of year. Because it’s so quiet out there, it’s not unusual to find yourself being watched by a deer, or a moose (the latter which remains top of the all time “stupid” list).
Yes, occasionally, you will be watched by a bear. Hopefully, not a hungry bear or one with cubs nearby. That almost never ends well, but I will give you a very important tip to remember on how to survive any bear encounter …
You don’t have to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than your friends.
So, if a bear starts moving towards you, slam your sand wedge into your friend’s shinbone and run like hell. He’ll be limping and cursing you right up until the end. Try to ignore it.
However, bear in mind (see what I did there, clever, eh?), should both you and your friend manage to survive, that trick won’t work again as he’ll be ready for it and is probably planning on doing it to you.
So, always bring two other friends who don’t know the trick.
A four-ball is more fun anyway and has the added possibility of confusing the bear by providing many more tempting targets (make sure one friend is fat and slow, just in case) …
Here in Viet Nam, I prefer a day of golf at The Bluffs in Ho Tram when I’m stressed out as the ocean is also quite relaxing. Weekdays are better as there are less people out there and you can just relax.
From a mental health point of view, watching the ocean from an elevated tee box is better than a truckload of Valium.
But sadly, they don’t have any bears, so there is no opportunity for comic relief … VNS