Age Limits in Golf

With all of the excitement following Tom Watson’s last chance (at age 59) to win at the British Open (that restricts players age 60+) last weekend, FateCare decided to investigate what sounded like an incredibly ageist agenda.

FateCare looked at three specific questions 1) are age limits in golf common, 2) what are the health benefits to playing golf, and 3) is golf any less beneficial or even dangerous to senior players?

1. Age limits in golf are not common.

• “The British Open is the only major that sets an age limit for its champions” (Ferguson, 2009).
• Augusta National “announced an age limit of 65 this decade” (Ferguson, 2009), but never imposed the limit.
• The Masters lets players decide when to stop. (Ferguson, 2009)
• The PGA Championship claims no limit, but seldom has “champions over 50 compete” (Ferguson, 2009).

2. Golf promotes several health benefits.

• Golf requires cardiovascular exercise that promotes a healthier heart and lower cholesterol (Think-Golf, 2006). If a player walks, instead of using a golf cart, he can end up walking “several miles around the course” which can be up to 3 to 5 miles of walking in an 18-hole game. (, 2009).

• The weight bearing exercises associated with golf, when practiced “two to three times a week can create long, lean muscle mass, which helps support a strong skeleton” (Think-Golf, 2006). The swinging of clubs and putting “help tone muscles in the arms, back and shoulders. It may also improve flexibility and range of motion. Golf also helps to strengthen hand-eye coordination and balance. It can be a great way for older players to remain spry and active in a low-impact way” (, 2009).

• Vitamin D is produced when one spends time out in the sunshine. “Vitamin [D] is essential for strong bones, it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Vitamin D also helps regulate the growth of skin cells” (Think-Golf, 2006).

• Golf also allows players to engage in social interaction “spending time with friends and other players and engaging in conversation” (, 2009).

• Golf is also useful in behavioral therapy of Alzheimer's patients. By giving Alzheimer's patients "an activity that once brought about true pleasure...their minds can clear, and memories related to that activity can return" (Futterman, 2009). Activities like golf have proven "helpful in both making people with dementia feel competent and generating periods of lucidity" (Futterman, 2009).

3. Golf is less beneficial to seniors in Vitamin D production and creates risk for injuries if participation is unsafe.

“Studies have shown that as we age, we tend to produce less vitamin D even with adequate sun exposure” (Benefits of Vitamin D, 2009), further supporting the need for supplementation. Vitamin D plays a key role in human longevity “the risk of death from all-cause mortality may increase by 26 percent due to inadequate vitamin D” (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008).

Golf can be of risk to seniors when participation is unsafe.
Although playing golf provides a moderate intensity exercise stimulus for seniors, musculoskeletal injuries can also result from unsafe participation, as can the aggravation of pre-existing musculoskeletal problems. Strategies for targeted management of the senior golfer's typical concerns are summarized into 4 categories consisting of: injury rehabilitation coordinated by therapists, warm up routines; club-fitting/coaching on proper technique, and pre-season conditioning programs. (Cann, et. al., 2005).

Golf is beneficial and safe for seniors when played according to proper techniques. Of course before beginning with any new physical activity program, one should consult with their physician first.

Cann AP, Vandervoort AA and Lindsay DM. (2005). Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Sciences. University of Western Ontario. Retrieved from:

Explore the Health Benefits of Golf. (2009, June 29.) Retrieved from:

Ferguson, D. (2009, July 20). British Open age limits could bar Tom Watson after 2010. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from:

Five Health Benefits of Golf. (2006, Nov. 22). Retrieved from:

Futterman, M. (2009, Apr. 16). Memories Slip, but Golf Is Forever. Alzheimer's Patients Perk Up On Outings to the Greens. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from:

Healthy Heart Beats. (2008). Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Colorado State University. Retrieved from:

The Benefits of Vitamin D. (2009, Apr. 15). Retrieved from:

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