Golfing with Dementia | The Mental Health Benefits of Golf

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Looking at the mental health benefits of golf? In this article, golf writer Colleen Gilbert provides a personalized story on how golf can truly benefit anyone.

There has been a lot said about the mental health benefits of golf. Numerous articles have been written about the attributes of how staying physically active contributes to good physical and mental health. For conversation sake I thought I would share a firsthand account of how I view dementia and the golf game.

Plenty has also been said how the game of golf can reduce stress and anxiety. I guess in some cases that may be true, but speaking for myself, the game can be darn right stressful with a little added anxiety thrown in for good measure.

Non-Traditional Benefits of Golf

Enjoying the outdoors is one of the mental health benefits of golf.  Showing a beautiful golf course in Florida.

Golf is good for people with depression; nothing better than being outside on a beautiful day listening to the birds and hanging out with friends unless you are having a bad game and that could make you depressed.

Kidding aside, golf is great for all ages especially for older adults who may be experiencing some forgetfulness or dementia.

Playing Golf with Dementia

You may wonder how that can be true when someone with dementia couldn’t possibly enjoy or even remember how to play the game. This thinking can easily be dismissed with this story.

Nearly every Sunday I play in a couple’s golf group at my club. This group has been around for quite a few years and everyone is comfortable with each other.

One couple in particular a boyfriend and girlfriend; ages 93 and 85 respectively, play with us on a regular basis. When teamed with this pair it is obvious the great love they have for one other. Bill, the 93 year old no longer knows the names of anyone in our group or what he had score wise on each hole. He doesn’t know the game we are playing or where we are meeting afterward.

But you know what, who cares? Bill remembers not to lallygag in the cart but to tee off when it is his time. He has his golf club out of his bag ready to hit while in the fairway.

Bill may be a little slow getting to the golf ball, but his memory of the game is solid. I have never seen him irritated but with the exception of one time when a fellow player suggested he use a longer club on a par 3. His response was very indignant as he explained that he always uses a 7 iron on this hole.  

Bill will play 18 holes with no issues. He will hold up a number of fingers to show his score and a good chance he will be corrected. He will play in some of Florida’s hottest weather with no complaints and enjoys a cold beer when he is done playing. Bill has played golf since he was young and the game has stayed in his long term memory. The world may have gone on without him, but while he is on the golf course he is young and clear headed again.

The “19th hole” as we golfers call the bar is another positive aspect of ending the golf round on a perfect note. Golfers gathering around talking about their golf game; how “Joe” just missed his putt on 12, help an individual with memory issues to be able to have fun and join in on the camaraderie.

As we Baby Boomers age many of us will be faced with unsought dementia. Golf certainly will not cure dementia but can add dimension to an individual struggling with day to day challenges. Some hobbies can be too much for someone with dementia but golf is one activity that continues to bring joy; as the individual experiences positive emotions of familiarity and remembrance during their game. 

Final Thoughts on Mental Health Benefits of Golf

Overall, the mental health benefits of golf are significant. As a lifelong game older individuals can reap the mental and physical benefits of continuing to play one of life’s more popular sports.

Is golf a calming sport?

Many people find golf to be a calming sport. There are several reasons for this. Golf is often played in a beautiful and peaceful outdoor setting, such as a well-manicured golf course with lush green grass and scenic views. This can create a sense of relaxation, peacefulness, and tranquility.

Golf also requires a great deal of concentration and focus, which can help to clear the mind and reduce stress. When playing golf, you must focus on your golf swing, your aim, and the conditions of the course, which can help to take your mind off of other worries and concerns.

Is golf a physical or mental sport?

Golf is both a physical and mental sport. It requires a combination of physical skill, such as good hand-eye coordination, flexibility, and balance, as well as mental skill, such as concentration, focus, and strategy.

In terms of the physical aspect, golfers must use their entire body to hit the ball accurately and consistently. A golf swing involves the use of multiple muscle groups, including the legs, back, arms, and shoulders. Golfers also walk several miles throughout the course, which provides moderate physical activity and helps to maintain cardiovascular health.

Are there health benefits to playing golf?

Walking the course provides physical activity that helps maintain cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and endurance. The distance around a golf course is equivalent to roughly 12,000 steps.

Is golf good for mental health?

Absolutely, golf can be highly beneficial for mental health. It combines physical activity, which boosts mood-enhancing endorphins, with the mental challenge of strategy and focus. The social aspect of the game provides a sense of community and support, while the outdoor setting can reduce stress and promote relaxation. Additionally, as golfers improve their skills, they can experience increased self-confidence as well as self-esteem.

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Colleen was born in Michigan and has been playing golf since she was 19 years old. She currently has a 12 handicap and is continually striving to improve her game. As a Senior Golfer, she spends her time playing golf, writing and investigating new golf courses.

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