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Get Your Exercise on Course

How golf in I.F. might be the perfect fit for your fitness goals

Published online: Feb 22, 2022 Articles, East Idaho Health Steve Smede
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Golf is not a sport.

That was the conventional wisdom pounded into my head as a kid. Because I played it, I never really believed it. Still, this was the 1980's, when the pre-Tiger athletes of the PGA Tour included physiques that would be more comfortable shooting billiards than marching fairways.

Even now, golf pales in comparison to the athletic requirements of other stick-and-ball sports, but it is a far cry from sedentary, especially if you opt to pack your sticks instead of riding a cart.

Putting aside the sport-or-not argument, a better question is whether golf even counts as exercise.

According to a study from the American Stroke Association, playing golf regularly, at least once a month, is associated with a lower risk of death. So there’s that, at least.

Specifically, walking a golf course is a great aerobic activity and adds to the benefits received from a long (albeit low-intensity) workout. The kicker, researchers say, is that people are engaged in the game and do not equate the walking–let alone the torque and stretch of smacking a golf ball–with exercise at all.

Just on paper, it’s easy to see the benefits. 

Consider our own trio of public city golf courses here in Idaho Falls. Depending on which tee set you play from, you’re looking at anywhere from 4,100 to 6,800 yards (2.3 to 3.9 miles) of minimum walking distance. Sure, that’s interspersed with several dozen pit stops, but each interruption includes its own form of exercise, namely winding up and smacking the ball. And while Sage Lakes and Sand Creek are mostly flat terrain, Pinecrest offers a fair amount of slope to make your “good walk spoiled” a little more challenging. Take a hike up at the hill-acious Idaho Falls Country Club, and now you’re into a serious 4-hour cardiovascular workout.

According to a recent report from, golf can be even more beneficial than other types of exercise, and a nice break from more mundane activities like walking or biking. 

“There is consistent data about the benefit of moderate intensity regular exercise. Certain physical activities may be too strenuous on cardiovascular systems and joints, and people have problems in regularly participating, such as weight training,” said Dr. Adnan Qureshi, lead author of the ASA study. “Certain activities like walking and cycling may be too monotonous to generate interest as regular activities.” 

In other words, you should try to work some game into your exercise, but without giving yourself a coronary.

“While walking and low intensity jogging may be comparable exercise, they lack the competitive excitement of golf,” Qureshi said. “Regular exercise, exposure to a less polluted environment, and social interactions provided by golf are all positive for health.”

It might sound like an off-putting, unconventional billboard for Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation, but I think an effective message could be summed like this: “Hey you! Are you kinda lazy, long in the tooth and easily bored by pointless walks and traffic-dodging bike rides? Head over to one of our three championship golf courses and get fit with some purpose.”

Golf is not the cheapest fitness-friendly activity in eastern Idaho, but compared to other regions, the options in Idaho Falls are insanely affordable. An annual city golf pass, for example, gets you unlimited play at our three championship-level golf courses for $890. Compare that to $1,890 for a pass at Boise Ranch. (That’s right, more than double, and it’s just for one mediocre course.) 

If you’re new to the game, no worries. Sand Creek, Pinecrest and Sage Lakes are all staffed with certified PGA professionals who can get you started with lessons and equipment. Both Sand Creek and Sage Lakes have full driving ranges, and Sand Creek even has a short course (the city’s golf equivalent to the bunny hill at Kelly Canyon). Clubs are also available for rent at all three courses. 

For more information, visit


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