GOLF is being prescribed by health practitioners in a bid to encourage a more active lifestyle in Scotland.

The pioneering move is seeing the R&A, organisers of the oldest major championship in golf team up with the University of St Andrews School of Medicine to develop Golf for Health to direct eligible patients to play the game.

While a pilot scheme is taking place in Fife, the R&A which organises The Open and oversees the rules of golf and governs the sport outside the US and Mexico, says it could be rolled out across Scotland and the UK.

Researchers in the school have developed a model in conjunction with Fife Golf Trust, NHS Fife, Scottish Golf, PGA Scotland, the European Tour Group and Ladies European Tour to enable primary care professionals and community link workers to prescribe golf for eligible patients.

The pioneering health initiative is being piloted in Fife with patients being directed to appropriate golf activities. The St Andrews-based R&A, says that the intiative has been rolled out over recent months by golf clubs through healthcare professionals to allow patients to experience the "widespread physical, mental and social benefits that the sport offers".

GP practices in Fife have been invited to take part in the pilot study, with participating practices linked with initially four local golf clubs offering a six-to-eight week, free-of-charge programme.

The clubs running the programme are Cluny Clays, Dunfermline, Dunnikier Park, near Kirkcaldy and Elmwood, near Cupar.

HeraldScotland:

Elmwood

Around 30 participants have already been involved and more programmes are planned for this spring.

The R&A says that research has revealed that, on average, golfers live five years longer than non-golfers while golf, as a physical activity, can help prevent and treat 40 major chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, breast and colon cancer, depression and dementia.

Frank Sullivan, professor of primary care medicine and medical school director of research at the University of St Andrews, is leading a team of expert academics in the School of Medicine to support the activity.

“This pilot initiative has been carefully designed to offer an accessible and social introduction to golf and to provide long-term health and wellbeing benefits for patients across Fife,” said Mr Sullivan.

“Our focus on developing connection pathways that are acceptable and feasible to implement for all involved is crucial. The most effective intervention in the world will not achieve its intended outcomes if patients are not connected with it.”

The R&A says that while pilot testing of the model has taken place in Fife, the findings will be evaluated and assessed for the feasibility of a larger-scale roll-out.

Linda Duncan, one of the participants at Cluny, said, “Golf has become something for me. It’s helped me get out in the fresh air and meet other people. The health benefits for me have been ten, 20, 30-fold.”

The R&A said it has committed funding to the Golf for Health project to support research at the university and the delivery of pilot golf packages by golf partners.

HeraldScotland:

Promoting golf on prescription are from left to right: Karin Sharp, Chief Operating Officer, Scottish Golf; Paul Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, Fife Golf Trust; Alasdair McDonald, PGA Professional, Dunnikier Park GC; Gregor MacDonald, PGA Professional, Cluny Clays GC; Lynsey Brown, Research Fellow, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews and Kevin Barker, Director of Golf Development at The R&A

 

Physical inactivity is associated with one in six deaths in the UK and costs the nation’s economy £7.4 billion per year. Inactivity levels in the UK increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, with participation in golf known to increase physical activity levels and improve physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Two years ago Observatory for Sport in Scotland research revealed 47% of Scottish adults – already among the lowest among the 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for activity levels – reported doing less activity during an 18 months.

Kevin Barker, director of golf development at the R&A said: “The R&A is actively promoting the health benefits of golf to encourage more people into the sport. We see social prescription as a great way for golf to contribute to the health of communities and to provide people with opportunities to enjoy playing the sport throughout their lifetime.”