Study Golf deemed a sport after all

By Associated PressDecember 22, 2008, 5:00 pm
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. ' Is golf really a sport or just a hobby?
 
Is it a good walk spoiled, or should we forget the walk and ask Santa for a golf cart this Christmas?
 
Would a PowerBar help more than an apple after nine holes, or should we forget em both and just wolf down another candy bar and Coke?
 
And do you really have to have Tiger Woods biceps to be any good?
 
A sports scientist pondering these and other 19th-hole kind of questions crunched a bunch of numbers and came up with answers, a few of which put a new twist on some age-old assumptions.
 
Among the top findings: Given the number of calories burned, its certainly OK to call golf a sport.
 
One of the more interesting things I found was that the actual act of swinging a golf club takes significant energy, said Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver.
 
Maybe more energy than many people might think for a motion that takes a grand total of about 3 seconds.
 
Wolkodoff found eight male volunteers, ages 26 to 61 with handicaps between 2 and 17, strapped them into some state-of-the-art equipment and took them out for a few rounds of golf on the hilly front nine of Inverness Golf Club in suburban Denver.
 
(In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the subjects, and I blame the somewhat bulky equipment for every bad shot I hit during the experiment.)
 
Wolkodoff discovered the subjects burned more calories when they walked and carried their clubs (721) than when they rode in a cart (411). When they walked, they traversed about 2.5 miles, compared to 0.5 miles when they rode, but the 500 percent increase in mileage corresponded to only a 75 percent increase in calories burned.
 
The conclusion was that the act of swinging the golf club could actually be considered good exercise ' a theory many on the not a sport side of the golf debate have long questioned.
 
As far as physical exertion, its not the same as boxing, but its definitely more than people thought, Wolkodoff said.
 
But before all you golf addicts cancel those gym memberships and turn the treadmill into a permanent coat rack, consider this: While the 2,884 calories the average player might burn by walking 36 holes a week is considered good for health (studies have shown that those who burn 2,500 calories a week improve their overall health by lowering their risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer), it will do little to improve fitness ' meaning it wont increase your overall aerobic capacity.
 
Another thing the study showed is that being fit directly affects your ability to play good golf.
 
You need to ask yourself, is the goal better fitness, or is it better fitness and better health? Wolkodoff said.
 
Wolkodoff will soon submit the results of his test to the Journal of Applied Physiology, the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
 
For the test, Wolkodoff strapped subjects into equipment that measured, among other things, their heart rate, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production and how far they were walking. Each volunteer played four nine-hole rounds: one carrying the bag on their shoulder, one pushing the bag in a push-cart, one with a caddie and one in a golf cart.
 
All the subjects went through fitness tests before the experiment to establish what their baseline anaerobic thresholds were ' in other words, at what point they began to burn fuel without the help of oxygen. When people cross their anaerobic threshold, lactic acid begins to build, which makes muscles start to burn and causes fine-motor skills to deteriorate.
 
This is important in golf, especially for walkers, because the higher a players anaerobic threshold, the more ability the player has to hike up steep hills or walk long distances quickly without losing the motor skills needed to execute many shots.
 
When the motor skill start to go, you can get the yips, lose coordination, Wolkodoff said.
 
Among Wolkodoffs findings:
 
  • There was virtually no difference in calories burned between carrying (721) and using a push cart (718) ' a surprising result to many, who figured it would take more work to push the cart.
     
    Normally, calories are measured on how much weight you had to move up a hill, he said. But in this case, it shows that even with another 15, 16 pounds to push with the cart, youre more efficient at moving that way than if the bag is over your shoulder.
     
    Not surprisingly, walking the course with a caddie carrying the clubs burned fewer calories (613) and playing while riding in a cart burned even fewer (411).
     
    The fact that the energy consumed while carrying and pushing is nearly identical could bolster the idea that players using push carts get no competitive advantage over those who carry. The American Junior Golf Association recently decided to allow non-motorized carts in tournament play, in part to decrease back stress on young players.
     
  • Players in Wolkodoffs tests scored best when using push carts and playing with a caddie. Their nine-hole averages (40 with push cart, 42 with caddie) were better than when riding in the motor cart (43).
     
    Wolkodoff said that offered proof there could be a benefit to walking the course'the way many golf purists insist the game should be played'that outweighs the benefit of resting while driving to your ball in the cart.
     
    It gets back to the idea that walking gives you a certain amount of time to think about a shot, to rehearse, go through the stuff, he said. Where in a golf cart, youre holding on, then, boom, youve got to get up, go to the ball and make a decision pretty quickly.
     
    But the benefit of walking didnt outweigh the stress of looping the bag on and off your shoulder 40 or 50 times and lugging it around the course over the span of two hours. The average scores for the walk-and-carry rounds was 45.
     
    Some people say, I play better golf when Im carrying, Wolkodoff said. But this study says, No. A carry bag is not necessarily better. Its not an intuitive thought for people.
     
  • Players reached their peak heart rates at the top of two taxing, uphill holes. When they were carrying or pushing the cart, the peak heart rates went past their anaerobic thresholds, and Wolkodoff noticed a marked spike in scoring on the tougher of the two holes under these circumstances.
     
    He attributes it to the buildup in lactic acid, which decreases fine motor skills.
     
    Returning below the threshold took 2 minutes to 3 minutes in some cases. So, the advice is, get in better shape to increase the anaerobic threshold so you dont find yourself going over it while playing golf. Good ways to improve golf fitness would be doing intervals on a treadmill or taking a spinning class.
     
    Weightlifting can come into play, too, Wolkodoff said. As you go up a hill, whether youre carrying your own body weight, or a carry bag or a push cart, the stronger your arms and legs are, the better you can make it up that hill without fatigue.
     
  • Wolkodoff measured subjects respiratory exchange ratio (RER), which can be used to determine which fuels ' carbs or fats ' are being used during exercise. The RERs for all four tests were between 0.85 and 0.88, meaning players had shifted from burning all fat to using equal amounts of fats and carbohydrates, but hadnt yet reached the point where they were burning all carbs.
     
    It means an energy bar with the approximately the same combination of what the players are burning ' like a Zone or Balance Bar ' is optimal for replenishment, and probably better than pure carbohydrates, such as the apple we often see Woods eating on the course or a bag of pretzels.
     
    Not that its any knock on Tigers diet.
     
    The thing with Tiger is, hes not just eating the apple, Wolkodoff said. Hes had a good meal beforehand. If he had a regular Gatorade, thats the equivalent of eating five apples. If he eats one apple per round, or one per nine, hes just doing it to add a little energy and maybe fill up his stomach.
     
    So, is golf a sport?
     
    Answer: It certainly is A sport, but probably not The Only sport you would need to play if you really want to get fit. But getting fit on the treadmill or in the weight room will definitely diminish fatigue on the golf course and, in turn, help you play better.
     
    The study shows theres significant energy expenditure in golf, more than bowling and some other sports its been compared to, Wolkodoff said. There are a lot of sports that dont have this level of energy expenditure.
  • Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.