Independent study reveals truth about exercise on the golf course

A new independent study has debunked the myth that carrying a golf bag for 18 holes provides a greater workout than using an electric or push trolley.

The study, led by Graeme Close, Professor of Human Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University, focused on 16 elite college golfers using three different modes for transporting their clubs around the course: carrying, pushing a trolley, and using a Stewart Golf Q Follow electric trolley.

Speaking on the study, Close said, “What I would really want to emphasise is; don’t think you’re losing your health benefits by putting your clubs on an electric trolley. The benefit is coming from walking.”

Close, who heads up nutrition for the DP World Tour, and is a Nutrition Consultant to both the European Ryder Cup Team and England Rugby Union, amongst others, also said “In my role with the DP World Tour it is vital that elite golfers can efficiently fuel performance. This study is the first of its kind to accurately measure the physical effects of golf on the body.”

The study, published in the European Journal of Sports Sciences, was centred around comparing the Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of all three modes of transport, with findings showing there was no meaningful differences in calories burned/TEE during a round, for all three modes. Close said “By far the major contributor to the energy expenditure of golf is walking itself. The act of striking the ball or carrying the clubs is a much more minor contributor than walking.”

However, Close found significant differences when analysing RPE, which in simple terms is a measure of how a person feels as opposed to their actual physical response. Carrying the bag had the highest RPE, meaning golfers felt like they were working much harder and burning more calories, even though they weren’t. The Stewart Q Follow gave the lowest RPE and was also the only mode of transportation that participants found ‘very easy’ when asked to rate the perceived level of exercise for each round.

“The perceived effort of the electric trolley was much lower, and I guess that makes sense because you know if you walk a course and you’re not having to actually think about either pushing a trolley or carrying clubs then of course it feels easier and that’s what we measured in this study”, said Close.

The study also found that carrying produced the highest overall heart rate and heart rate fluctuation, a factor that could adversely affect match performance; lining up a crucial putt with an increased heart rate is not an ideal scenario for most golfers.

The results of this study offer a fresh perspective. By debunking the myth of carrying vs using a trolley, this research shows that the real health benefits come from walking. Golfers now have a scientifically backed approach to optimising their experience on the course, enhancing their overall health, and ensuring peak performance.

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As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.