Golf Articles

How far do you walk when playing 18 holes of golf?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering for years: how far does a golfer walk during a standard round of 18 holes?

Sure, you could simply take the yardage on the scorecard, and then add “a little extra”, but when you think about it, there is much, much more walking done by the average golfer.

Prior to the round, you have things like walking from the carpark to the proshop, wandering through the clubhouse, walking to the practice tee, walking around the putting green, etc.

Once you tee off, the real walking begins. But aside from the Tee-to-Green scorecard length, there are many additional distances you may cover: 18 return trips between your buggy and the tee box, and 18 more to/from the greens.  Land in a bunker and you will find yourself walking to a rake, playing the shot, backtracking your way out as you rake, etc.

As you approach a green, many players will circle the green to determine the break for a putt. Miss a putt (or three), and you will walk even more.  Then there are things like walking from the green to the next tee. Or walking from the 9th green to the clubhouse for a coffee or restroom break.

And then there is the biggie: what if you or your playing partner(s) lose a ball (or a dozen) during the round? Depending on your particular “search pattern”, you may walk back and forth across a 30m stretch of area many times.

It all adds up.

So just how much does an average golfer walk in a round? And how do we measure it? Thanks to smartphone/GPS technology, the question can now be answered.

Borrowing some inspiration from my wife (a walking enthusiast who measures her distances walked via an app on her iPhone) I installed and trialled various smartphone apps and a smart watch to measure the distance I and a few playing partners walked on the course. The apps – Map My Walk, RunKeeper, etc – are designed for walkers/joggers to set and measure their fitness goals. Utilising GPS technology, the apps continuously track an athlete’s speed, distance, changes in elevation, etc, and then plot the route on a map.

We then set about to see just how many metres the average golfer covered.

The results from the first few rounds were astounding.  During a standard 18-hole round (measuring the distance walked from the first tee through to the 18th green) each golfer in our test walked around 8.5km. When we added the off-course measurements (Carpark, clubhouse, practice area) the total was closer to a whopping 9.5km!

No wonder we are so tired after a round!

While that was far longer than any of us had predicted, it was also surprising to note that the difference between the three handicap types (We had low, middle and high handicappers in our groups) was negligible.

The hackers and middle handicappers, as expected, rarely walked down the middle of each fairway; instead playing what many of us call “Army Golf” (left, right, left, right). They also tended to cover extra distance to/from neighbouring fairways, hazard areas and the trees, etc. The average on-course total for this group was 8.8km.

The low handicappers, on the other hand, walked basically down the middle of the fairways, but covered more distance circling the greens (to determined the line/break).  They also helped the others to find lost balls, and of course, they still had the same buggy-green-teebox  return trips. In all, their distance averaged 8.3km, only about 500m less than the High Handicapper.

On a side note, the app indicated that I burned around 1000 calories during each of my rounds. This is based solely on the walking aspect–according to my height/weight, etc, and changes in elevation of around 150m of climb. It does not take into account things like the actual golf swing, practice swings or pushing the buggy. (Nor does it account for some of our other strenuous activities like club throwing, swearing and other actions that doubtless burn extra calories!)

AUSTRALIAN NATIONWIDE RESEARCH PROJECT

Following my trial, I initiated a nationwide research “project” via Inside Golf magazine to determine how far golfers walk during a round of 18 holes.  We called on readers across Australia to usetheir various GPS measuring devices or smartphone apps while they played their normal weekly/monthly rounds, and then enter their data on our website.

With over 1000 rounds entered, we sorted, sifted and separated the data.

The average scorecard length for courses that our readers played came in at 5761 metres.  The average total distance walked by golfers in our study over those courses: 10204 metres. Just over 10km of walking in a round!

WOW!

This translates to a whopping 77% increase in distance versus the scorecard length.

Surprisingly, it was the Middle Handicappers (11-18 hcp) who walked the furthest, with an 80% increase in distance vs the scorecard length. The High Handicappers (19-36 hcp) came in next with a 78% increase, while the Low Handicappers (0-10hcp), as expected, came in lowest at 70%.

Middle handicappers appear to walk the furthest distance in a round of golf, with a whopping 80% increase in distance vs the scorecard length.

The difference between High and Mid handicappers can potentially be explained due to the fact that the makeups of the threesomes/foursomes in the respondents’ groups could have varied greatly, and as we all tend to help each other look for lost balls, etc., then each round could have had many variables that were not reflected in the survey.

In the battle of the sexes, it was a dead heat, with both men and women walking around the same 77% further than the card.

A large number of respondents also included additional data in their entries. The most informative was the “Calories burned”, which is provided by many of the smartphone apps like “Map My Run” etc.

In general the average number of calories burned was in the 900-1000 calories range. And these numbers reflect only the walking (and sometimes the changes in elevation); they don’t take into account the swinging of the club, pushing the buggy, bending/kneeling or other movements.

Burning a thousand calories in around 4 hours is no minor number, and represents some great health benefits. Especially in this era of growing obesity worldwide.

According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, we should aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day. A round of golf smashes that recommendation, and burns (according to their charts for a 91kg person) nearly 400 calories per hour. This is similar to a leisurely 10mph bicycle ride or even a bit of downhill skiing.

So there’s the proof. Golf is great for health!

A few more bits of data from our survey: The average age of respondents was 54 years old. Males comprised 90% of the survey, and the average time to complete a round was 4 hours and 28 minutes.

Breakdown by state: NSW golfers comprised around 45% of respondents, with Vic golfers coming in at 32.7%. Other states: Qld: 11%, WA: 3.8%, Tas: 3%, ACT: 3% and SA: 1.5%.

And just for fun: The youngest participant was a 14 year-old low handicapper from WA, while a trio of 78 year-olds took top honours for oldest. The lowest percentage difference was a 44 year-old High Handicapper from NSW, who completed a round in 3 hours, 11 minutes, and only walked 56 metres longer than the scorecard length (an efficient 1.3% premium). The highest percentage was a whopping 195% increase by a 69 year-old, Mid-handicapper in NSW, who, over 5 hours and 33 minutes walked nearly 13km on a course measuring 4372m. Poor bloke.)

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