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20th Jan 2023

Golf could be rolled out on prescription across UK as part of new trial to boost health

Jack Peat

The sport can help prevent and treat up to 40 major chronic diseases

Golf could be rolled out on prescription across the UK as trials start to boost health.

R&A, organisers of the oldest major championship in golf, teamed 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 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 health professionals and community 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 the initiative 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”.

Golf Cart

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.

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.

The sport 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.

Mr Sullivan said: “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.

“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.

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.”

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