Better Me

Senior Swing: Why More Older Adults Are Playing Golf

In a world where trends come and go, there’s something timeless about the game of golf. This is because golfing isn’t just for the young at heart. It’s a lifetime sport that all skill levels and ages can play, whether you are 6 or 96. 

In 2023, 34 million Americans ages 6 and up played golf on traditional golf courses, driving ranges, indoor simulators or entertainment venues like Topgolf. Of these players, 15% were older adults. 

Because it is low-impact, golf offers many benefits for seniors including maintaining health and movement. Golfing also provides an opportunity to socialize with friends and enjoy the great outdoors and may even lower the risk of death in older adults!

If you’re considering taking up the sport in your golden years, read on to learn more about how golf can be a hole-in-one for you.  

The key benefits of golf to seniors

Balance, coordination and movement

As we age, we slowly begin to lose power and range of motion (mobility) if we don’t purposefully work on it.

Golf requires a combination of precision and fluidity, making it an excellent activity for enhancing balance, coordination and movement control. The uneven terrain of the course and unpaved paths can also challenge balance.

“When it comes to golf, we need plenty of mobility in our hips and thoracic spine (mid-back where your ribs attach to the spine),” said Naveed Shan, a doctor of physical therapy at Banner Sports Medicine Scottsdale. “We also need to produce force very quickly (power) to swing a golf club.”

Research shows that the static and dynamic balance of golfers aged 65 to 79 years is significantly better than non-golfers,” said Amy Alexander, PT, a physical therapist with Banner Sports Medicine Scottsdale. “This is important, considering balance, gait instability and muscle weakness are known risk factors for falls in older adults.”

Cardiovascular exercise

While it may not be as heart-pounding as pickleball or tennis, a round of golf is also a way to get aerobic exercise. Depending on the walking pace, you can achieve low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise. If you walk the entire course, you may walk four miles per game!

“Doing several short sessions of aerobic exercise, which add up to the same total time as one longer session, can yield the same cardiovascular benefits,” Alexander said. “For example, nine walks lasting five minutes can have similar benefits as a walk lasting 45 minutes.”

Social interactions

Golfing gives you an outlet to connect with friends and make new ones. And, with 18 holes, there is plenty of time to enjoy conversation and camaraderie. It can also reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

“Engaging in a sport that addresses both physical benefits and psychosocial (mental health and well-being) is a great way to work on wellness, and golf does that,” Dr. Shan said.

The enjoyment of nature

Golf courses are typically in picturesque settings, surrounded by greenery and natural landscapes. Spending time outdoors in this environment and the fresh air can be calming, reducing stress and improving mood. 

How to start golfing as an older adult 

If you haven’t played before or haven't played in a while, you may feel stuck. But don’t fret. Alexander and Dr. Shan share tips to help you start on the right foot…and course.

Spend money the right way: While it’s tempting to splurge on expensive clubs, gloves and golf wear, invest instead in quality lessons with a skilled instructor. “Establishing a base of good technique helps to minimize the risk for ineffective habits and injury,” Alexander and Dr. Shan said. Rent or borrow clubs until you get the hang of it (and know you like and enjoy the sport), then consider buying custom-fit clubs.

Start small: Sinking the ball is one of the hardest parts of the game. Start small by working from the hole outwards. 

“Learn how to putt properly, little one-to-two-foot putts, and work your way out from there until you need a larger club, like a wedge,” Alexander said. “Starting with hitting off the tee can be frustrating and you run the risk of stopping before it gets fun.”

Avoid golf injuries: Unfortunately, golf injuries are common if you’re not careful. 

“Low back, neck and shoulder injuries and tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow (medial/lateral epicondylitis) are common in the sport,” Dr. Shan said. “Acute injuries can also occur at the wrist or shoulder with improper swing form or if you hit a rock or tree root.”

Here are some ways to avoid golf injuries:

  • Have an effective warm-up routine. Warming up has been shown to reduce the risk of injuries or issues. “Some good warm-up exercises may include quadruped thoracic rotation, shoulder CARs (controlled articular rotations), standing clamshells and hip airplanes,” Dr. Shan said. You can find many warm-up exercises on YouTube, but working with a physical therapist may be helpful if you are starting out. “A physical therapist can develop a customized exercise program to help reduce injury risk and build strength and flexibility,” Alexander said. “They can also prescribe adjustments and modifications based on your age and skill level.”
  • Take golf lessons from a professional.
  • Wear golf shoes to prevent slipping on wet grass.
  • Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
  • Pay attention to who is hitting off the tee.

If you become injured, don’t play through the pain. “If you have increased pain as you play through a round, it’s almost always best not to continue,” Dr. Shan said. “Remember, you’re playing for fun and not to win the Masters. No sport is worth damaging your health.”


Golf is a lifetime sport and a great way to stay active, enjoy the outdoors and socialize. There’s no question that golf can make a big difference for older adults. If you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late.

However, before starting any new sport or exercise (including golf) talk to your health care provider or a physical therapist to ensure it’s safe and suitable for your needs and abilities. 

For more sports medicine-related blogs, check out:

Sports Medicine Senior Health Fitness