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Research project: Strength and Balance in Older Golfers

Currently Active: 

This study aims to determine if playing golf is associated with good strength and balance in older recreational golfers. This will help determine if golf meets World Health Organization recommendations and can be adopted on referral and social prescribing schemes.

Golfers poster
Golfers poster

The Problem: Physical inactivity is a global pandemic, responsible for 5.3 million deaths annually. Older people are the least active, at great cost to healthcare and the general economy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set activity recommendations for older people to lead a more active lifestyle. Golf is associated with health benefits and increased life expectancy but it is not known if golf meets all the WHO requirements, specifically for strength and balance. This study aims to help address this gap in knowledge about strength and balance in older recreational golfers.

Overall Aim: To demonstrate the physical and psychosocial benefits associated with playing recreational golf regularly in older people

Specific Aims

  1. Compare physical measures between golfers and sedentary non-golfers
  2. Determine whether comparisons between golfers and non-golfers differ between men and women and with increasing age
  3. Identify measures of physical function that distinguish golfers from non-golfers, which could be used to assess the effects of golf as an intervention in those new to the sport 

What the study involves:

We are studying males and females of different ages in eight groups according to age (young males and females, 18-35 years; and older 65-79 and over 80 years) and physical activity levels (golfers and non-golfers; older sedentary, young active).

Data collection mainly takes place in golf clubs and community venues, with some in the University laboratory. All measurements used are known to be valid and reliable i.e. accurate and consistent when repeated on different days. Measures of strength, balance and general function include: strength of handgrip and respiratory muscles; size of leg and abdominal muscles; static balance (standing still) and dynamic balance (reaching in different directions); timed measures combining strength or power, balance and endurance.  All the measurement procedures are feasible to use in older people and in community settings. We have completed data collection in golfers under 80 and are still seeking golfers over 80.  We are also seeking non-golfers over 65 years who do not do activities for more than an hour a week.

Differences between golfers and non-golfers would indicate that the physical demands of golf may be sufficient to meet the WHO recommendations for training strength and balance in older people. This would provide the basis for longitudinal studies of people taking up golf to test whether the better function in golfers was caused by playing golf and not just other factors. Positive findings would help the development of golf on referral and social prescribing schemes for people living with long-term conditions.

The current project evolved from preliminary student projects that looked at the feasibility of using various procedures for testing strength, balance and function in older people in community settings. The findings of these MSc student projects have been published (Buckley et al ; Herrick et al 2017; Stockdale et al 2017; Webb et al 2018).


Buckley C, Stokes M, Samuel D. Muscle strength, functional endurance, and health-related quality of life in active older female golfers. Aging Clin Exp Res 2017; Published Online 23 October 2017, pp1-8. Open Access. DOI 10.1007/s40520-017-0842-4

Herrick I, Brown S, Agyapong-Badu S, Warner M, Ewings S, Samuel D, Stokes M. Anterior thigh tissue thickness measured using ultrasound imaging in older recreational female golfers and sedentary controls. Geriatrics 2017; 2: 10; doi:10.3390/ geriatrics2010010

Stockdale A, Webb N, Wootton J, Drennan J, Brown S, Stokes M. Muscle strength and functional ability in recreational female golfers and less active non-golfers over the age of 80 years. Geriatrics 2017; 2: 12.

Webb N, Rowsome K, Ewings S, Comerford M, Stokes M, Mottram S. A ‘Movement Screening Test’ of functional control ability in female recreation golfers and non-golfers over the age of 80 years: a reliability study. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol Special Issue "Exercise and Aging" 2018; 3(4): 54. doi:10.3390/jfmk3040054

Funded by: The R&A


Associated research themes

Active Living Theme

Related research groups

Active Living and Rehabilitation

Conferences and events associated with this project:

Brown S, Samuel D, Agyapong-Badu S, Herrick I, Murray A, Hawkes R, Stokes S. Age Related Differences in Lung Function between Female Recreational Golfers and Less Active Controls. World Scientific Congress of Golf, St Andrews, July, 2016

Herrick I, Brown S, Agyapong-Badu S, Warner M, Ewings S, Samuel D, Stokes M. Anterior Thigh Composition Using Ultrasound Imaging in Mature Female Recreational Golfers. World Scientific Congress of Golf, St Andrews, July, 2016

Stokes M, Brown S, Agyapong-Badu S, Warner M, Ewings S, Martinez S, Herrick I, Buckley C, Rowsome K, Stockdale A, Wootton J, Webb N, Murray A, Hawkes R, Samuel D. Golf in later life: musculoskeletal function and quality of life in recreational female golfers. Symposium on Golf, physical activity and health. World Health Organisation European Network for the promotion of Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA Europe) Conference, Belfast, September 2016

Stokes M, Wilson D, Muckelt P, Samuel D, Sankah B, McKay C, Ewings S, Hawkes R, Murray A, Warner M. Strength and balance in mature recreational golfers: preliminary findings. 7th International Society for Physical Activity and Health Congress (ISPAH), London, October 2018

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