Does golf really burn calories?

Golf is a popular sport played by over 60 million people worldwide. Many golfers claim that golf is an excellent form of exercise and helps burn a significant number of calories. But does golf really help you lose weight and get fit? Let’s take a closer look at the facts.

How Many Calories Does Golf Burn?

The number of calories burned playing golf depends on several factors:

  • Your weight – Heavier people burn more calories than lighter people
  • Intensity – Walking quickly versus taking your time
  • Terrain – Hilly courses burn more calories than flat courses
  • Distance walked – 18 holes can be 4-6 miles
  • Carrying clubs – Carrying your bag burns more calories than using a cart

On average, a person weighing 150 lbs burns around 300 calories per hour of golf by walking and carrying clubs. At 200 lbs, you can burn about 372 calories per hour. Heavy golfers can burn 500+ calories per hour on hilly courses.

For an 18-hole round of golf lasting 4 hours, a 150 lb person would burn around 1,200 calories. This exercise is equivalent to running 6 miles or spending over 2 hours in the gym.

Calorie Burn by Activity

Activity Calories Burned Per Hour
Walking, carrying clubs 300
Walking, pushing cart 240
Riding in golf cart 120

As shown, riding in a cart instead of walking significantly reduces the calories burned during golf.

Benefits of Golf for Weight Loss

Here are some of the benefits of golf for losing weight and getting exercise:

  • Walking 18 holes burns substantial calories – As a high mileage walking sport, golf ranks among the top calorie burning activities.
  • Golf incorporates nature – Being outside in fresh air makes exercise more enjoyable.
  • Low injury risk – The slow pace and low impact make golf safer than running.
  • Provides mental reprieve – Golf distracts from daily stresses.
  • Year-round activity – Golf can be played in any season, providing consistency.

Additionally, the social nature, mental stimulation, and flexibility of golf makes it easy to fit into your weekly routine. Golf supports weight loss alongside a healthy diet.

Maximizing Fat Burn

To get the most out of golf for calorie expenditure, consider these tips:

  • Walk instead of using a cart
  • Carry your bag for the whole round
  • Pick hilly courses when possible
  • Play briskly rather than waiting on each shot
  • Take less rest between holes
  • Play an extra 9 holes whenever possible
  • Don’t overindulge at the clubhouse afterwards

Avoiding excessive post-golf eating and drinking is key. The calories burned playing 18 holes can easily be replaced with high-calorie beverages or meals.

Is Golf Enough Exercise?

For many golfers trying to lose weight, a weekly round or two of golf is not enough exercise. While golf does provide excellent activity, most weight loss experts recommend:

  • 150+ minutes of moderate exercise per week
  • 20-60 minutes of daily activity

Playing only 9-18 holes of golf one day a week does not meet general exercise guidelines. However, golf combined with other physical activity like jogging, swimming, or strength training can help you meet weekly goals.

Recommended Golf and Exercise Schedule

Day Golf Other Exercise
Monday 45 min brisk walk
Tuesday 60 min gym – strength
Wednesday 18 holes
Thursday 30 min jog
Friday 45 min bike ride
Saturday 18 holes
Sunday Rest day

Mixing golf, cardio, and strength training throughout the week keeps your routine varied while meeting exercise needs.

Best Golf Exercises

Certain exercises complement golf by working the swing muscles. Add these golf-specific exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week:

Core Exercises

  • Planks – Hold for 30-60 seconds x 3-5 sets
  • Russian twists – 10-15 reps x 3 sets
  • Reverse crunches – 10-15 reps x 3 sets

Leg and Glute Exercises

  • Squats – 15-20 reps x 3 sets
  • Lunges – 10-15 reps x 3 sets per leg
  • Glute bridges – 15-20 reps x 3 sets

Shoulder Exercises

  • Shoulder press – 10-12 reps x 3 sets
  • Upright rows – 10-12 reps x 3 sets
  • Lateral raises – 12-15 reps x 3 sets

Focusing on core strength, leg power, and shoulder flexibility prepares your body for an effective golf swing. Yoga is also fantastic for balance, posture, and mobility.

Nutrition for Golfers

Proper nutrition provides energy for hours on the course and aids post-golf recovery. Here are some golf nutrition tips:

  • Eat a mix of carbs, protein, and fat
  • Snack on bananas, nuts, and granola bars
  • Drink electrolyte beverages like sports drinks
  • Eat light meals before golfing
  • Avoid excessive alcohol
  • Increase protein intake for muscle recovery

Carb loading in the 24 hours before golf boosts energy stores in your muscles. Hydrating well and fueling during the round maintains energy.

Pre-Round Meal Ideas

  • Oatmeal and scrambled eggs
  • Greek yogurt parfait with granola and fruit
  • Turkey sandwich with veggies
  • Quinoa salad with avocado
  • Smoothie with protein powder

On-Course Snacks

  • PB&J sandwiches
  • Trail mix
  • Beef jerky
  • Fresh fruit like bananas and oranges
  • Nutrition bars
  • Dried fruit and nuts

Refueling with a carb and protein-rich meal within 30 minutes of finishing golf promotes muscle repair.

The Verdict: Golf for Weight Loss

Here is a summary of key points:

  • 18 holes of golf burns around 1,200 calories from walking
  • Golf combined with other exercise can meet weekly goals
  • Carrying clubs and walking quickly boosts calorie burn
  • Proper nutrition and hydration enhances performance
  • Core, leg, and shoulder exercises improve golf fitness

While golf alone won’t make you fit, integrating it into a healthy lifestyle can absolutely help you lose weight and burn calories. The key is maximizing activity on the course while pairing golf with other calorie burning workouts.


Golf offers an enjoyable activity that also provides exercise. The combination of mental relaxation and moderate activity make it a sustainable component of a weight loss routine. While golf alone likely won’t lead to big weight reductions, complementing a few weekly rounds with strength training, cardio, proper nutrition, and healthy habits can help you get fit. So next time someone claims golf isn’t a real workout, remember that carrying clubs for 18 holes burns a substantial number of calories!

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