IT has been described as a “good walk spoiled”, but new research suggests that a regular round of golf could be life saving.

The study carried out in the US tracked mortality in a group of nearly 5,900 older adults over a ten-year period.

The participants had an average age of 72 and 384 were classed as regular golfers, meaning they played at least once a month.

When scientists at the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute in Minnesota compared outcomes, they found that a quarter of those who were non-golfers had died over the decade compared to 15% for lovers of the sport.

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The findings were gathered retrospectively from an existing set of data in the US, known as the Cardiovascular Health Study.

The study ran from 1989 to 1999 to assess risk factors for heart disease and strike. The participants were all over 65 and underwent extensive medical examinations every six months.

They were also required to provide details about their lifestyles and exercise.

Lead author and professor of neurology, Dr. Adnan Qureshi, said golf should be among the physical activities recommended to older adults.

He said: “While walking and low intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf.

“Regular exercise, exposure to a less polluted environment and social interactions provided by golf are all positive for health.

“Another positive is that older adults can continue to play golf, unlike other more strenuous sports such as football, boxing and tennis.

“Additional positive aspects are stress relief and relaxation, which golf appears better suited for than other sports.”

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The findings are due to be presented in full next week at a conference of the American Stroke Association in Los Angeles.

The researchers could not say whether playing golf had a specific protective benefit against heart attack or stroke, or whether those playing golf had walked or rode on golf buggies.

A follow up study in underway, however, looking at gender or race are factors and what other conditions may benefit from golf.

Dr Ulf Ekelund, a professor of sports medicine in Norway, said it could be that golfers had healthier lifestyles overall, such as lower smoking rates, but that this had not been taken into account by the study.

He said: “Other studies have consistently shown that physical activity of any intensity is associated with a reduced risk of death.

"If older individuals like to play golf, they should continue, but I am sure regular walking is equally good for health and longevity.”

Evidence about the potential health benefits of golf are not new, however.

READ MORE: Scots golfing great Sam Torrance recovering after stroke

A 2016 study by Edinburgh University found that people who played golf lived longer on average than those who did not.

After reviewing 5000 existing studies, the researchers said the sport was likely to increase life expectancy, help chronic diseases and boost brainpower.

Balance and muscle endurance in older people were improved by playing the sport, they said.

Golfing could also help those who suffered chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, as well as helping reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia.

The study found golfers typically burnt a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes.

However, the latest study from the US comes as many of Scotland’s face a crisis of declining participation.

In January, it emerged than five of Glasgow’s six municipal golf courses have been earmarked for closure as the council seeks to achieve savings expected to be in the region £50 million.

It would leave just one publicly-funded club - the nine-hole course in Knightswood - and save around £530,000 a year.

Glasgow Life, which manages the courses, said there had been a 15 per cent fall in usage at the six courses over the past four years.

The council said the closures were of a number of options being considered ahead of a budget meeting on February 20.

Financial pressures and a fall in membership was also blamed for the closure in August last year of the historic Mount Ellen Golf Club in Lanarkshire, while one of Scotland’s oldest sites - the 126-year-old Eastwood Gold Club - also folded in May 2019 after a last-minute buyout failed.