This news release touting the health benefits of golf overreaches and employs unjustified language in summarizing the consensus statement of 25 experts who used questionnaires to agree upon “how best to maximize [golf’s] health benefits, promote [its] sustainability, and widen participation.”
There is no original research here. The methodology used to reach a subjective consensus is fraught with major limitations which preclude making health recommendations.
The news release fails to mention the entire process was funded by the World Golf Foundation, and some of the authors have other notable financial conflicts of interest within the golf industry.
If a news release is going to make claims of evidence showing wide-ranging health benefits related to both physical and mental health — as well as longevity — it had best back that up with real evidence.
Furthermore, when there is no original research involved, and the conflicts of interest are substantial, use of the term “evidence” is grossly misleading.
This is promotional pablum, not science.
The news release states that golfers tend to be “relatively well off” and:
“… the sport is often perceived as expensive … and not a game for the young or those on the lower rungs of the social ladder”
The cost to play 18 holes at the course closest to where this review is being written is $27. The fee at St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland — where one of the authors is director of Golf Development — is roughly 10 times that amount.
The subtitle of this release claims golf “may not only be good for mind and body, but also for a long life.”
More specifically we’re told evidence for this comes from the “systematic review of the available evidence (342 eligible studies)” — and — “the evidence shows that playing golf regularly is associated with longevity and reducing the risk factors for heart disease/stroke. And it can boost older peoples strength and balance.”
Unfortunately, absolutely no data are offered to support these sweeping health claims.
The only potential harm from golf mentioned is an increased risk for skin cancer. It’s an important inclusion that prompts us to give a barely passing grade.
This nebulous statement is also included: “Compared with other sports, the risk of injury is moderate.” (Rugby and mixed martial arts come to mind).
What’s not mentioned is a host of musculoskeletal injuries related to the repetitive and asymmetric nature of swinging a golf club.
This study is based on a “modified Delphi method” involving 25 experts “in public health and health policy, and industry leaders.” Their qualifications are not included.
The Delphi Method has experts complete several rounds of anonymous questionnaires with the goal of reaching a consensus.
This methodology has several limitations including: it’s subjective, not objective. There are no established guidelines for implementing the surveys. The goal is to reach a convergence of opinion, and — most importantly — the resulting consensus does not equate with causation.
Not mentioning the study method and its limitations is a major weakness of this news release.
No disease mongering noted.
This is the second major weakness of this news release.
It’s not mentioned that this “2018 Consensus Statement on Golf and Health” was funded by an unrestricted grant from the World Golf Foundation.
Two of the authors receive fees from the European Golf tour and one is the director of Golf Development at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Golf is often referred to as “a good walk spoiled.”
Common sense would suggest many of the benefits touted in this news release might also hold for a good walk or hike; unfortunately, no alternatives are mentioned.
Golf is widely available worldwide. But as suggested in the release it may be prove unaffordable for many.
This news release does not present golf as a novel form of exercise. But we think it clearly overreaches in suggesting a host of health benefits through a news release — without any supporting evidence. There is no news here, just promotion.
Given there is no study here, and the basis of the health claims is nothing more than a subjective consensus statement of experts (some with major conflicts of interest), we find the headline and health recommendations of this news release to be unjustified and overreaching.