How Many Calories Can You Burn Playing Golf?

How Many Calories Can You Burn Playing Golf?

Have you ever wondered if golf is good exercise? Or if you play better golf riding in a cart or walking? Ever wonder how many calories you burn in a typical round? Or if you would play better if you were in better shape?

Neil Wolkodoff, PhD pondered all these things too and as the medical program director of the Colorado Center for Health and Sport Science in Denver, he knew how to find the answers. Many years ago, he used a complex portable, metabolic measurement system to conduct a set of tests on amateur golfers. 

In his study, golfers scored lower while walking with a caddie or with their clubs on a push cart than they did when using a motorized cart. And golfers carrying a golf bag posted the highest average score.

As you would expect, the most energy was expended while walking with a bag ~721 calories burned per nine holes which would equate to over 1400 calories for a full 18 holes, however walking with a push cart was not far behind (718 for nine holes). Walking with a caddie burned 621 calories for nine holes, and riding in a cart still burned 411 calories on average for a nine hole round.

“One of the surprise realizations was that just swinging a golf club about 100 times uses up a significant amount of energy,” Wolkodoff said. So there is something to be said about a bad round of golf.   At least you can look at it as a great round of exercise! ;)

Each of the golfers went through rigorous testing before the study to establish their aerobic endurance and anaerobic threshold levels, which is the point when lactic acid buildup generally begins to impair coordination and concentration. This became important because Wolkodoff could watch readouts from six pounds of sensors strapped to the golfers and identify when they had gone beyond their fitness level.

This study showed that being in shape physically can really help a golfer’s game.

What Wolkodoff also discovered was that exceeding one’s anaerobic threshold usually went hand in hand with playing a bad round of golf. As an example, think of someone walking up a steep hill and then having to hit a delicate chip without the two-minute recovery period needed to restore heart and respiratory rates to normal.

So what this equates to, is being fit can cut strokes off your game!

“If you’re out of shape, exceeding your threshold could happen a few times every round, even while riding in a cart, because tee boxes and green complexes are often elevated,” Wolkodoff said. “Your golf game will suffer. Somebody with the yips might just be a little winded after walking up to the green. At the same time, being in better physical condition would make you better mechanically and mentally.”

If you want to read more about this study, here is a link to the original article written by Bill Pennington back in August 2010. He says it's not a perfect study, but that they discovered some interesting things. In fact, representatives at the P.G.A. of America, the United States Golf Association and the National Golf Foundation said they were not aware at the time of studies exactly like Wolkodoff’s. A University of Pittsburgh study that came after, measured one golfer’s caloric expenditure as he walked with a bag, walked with a caddie and rode in a cart. That study put the number of calories burned at higher rates than Wolkodoff’s study — about 1,000 calories for nine holes of walking and carrying, 750 for walking with a caddie and 650 for riding in a cart.


A Swedish study concluded that golfers there lived five years longer than non-golfers, but keep in mind nearly all golfers in Sweden walk while playing.

“The health benefits of walking was the best news of our study,” said Wolkodoff, adding that the complete results could be found on his center’s Web site, “Playing 18 holes of golf while pushing a cart twice a week shouldn’t replace an overall fitness regimen, but it could be a very worthy supplement.”

And for when you aren't playing golf, getting in shape so that you can play better, is never a bad thing.   This Fall and Winter depending on where you live, why not start a better fitness regimen if you haven't already.  Take a look at getting yourself a new fitness wardrobe to keep you extra motivated. Click here to check out some of our favorite workout gear pieces for women.

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