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.
  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.