Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

The Gemme is Meant for the Walkin’

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 08/06/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

“The Gemme (Game) is Meant for the Walkin'” is a direct quote from the classic novel “Golf in the Kingdom” by Michael Murphy. While my column this week is about walking to play golf, you’ll have to wait for my ruminations about that book until next week.

Today I want to comment on an article written in the New York Times this past Sunday. The article, by Bill Pennington, explains some recent “research” by the Director of the Health and Sport Science Center at Rose Medical Center in Denver. Neil Wolkodoff had wondered how conditioning influenced golf performance. Coincidentally, this past Sunday evening, Michael Breed of Golf Channels “Golf Fix” spoke briefly about the recent surge in extraordinary scores like Stuart Applebee’s 59 at Greenbrier. Breed indicated that he felt it was at least due in part to professional golfers being better athletes. As such they were more committed to conditioning. This was an interesting intersection of ideas for me.

I’ve been hinting here and there since I started this column that I was an advocate of walking the golf course for several reasons. Mr Wolkodoff’s research gives us some quantitative evidence for Shivas Iron’s dictum that “The gemme (game) is meant for the walkin’.”

It’s not surprising to me that golfers scored lower while playing with a caddie or pushing their clubs on a cart than they did with a motorized cart. What was somewhat unexpected was the difference in calories burned when walking (721 calories burned for 

nine holes) and carrying a bag was not all that different from walking with a push cart (718). Even riding a motorized cart burned 411 calories on average. This data also compares favorably with the University of Pittsburgh’s Study that put caloric expenditure at about 1000 calories for walking and carrying a bag for nine holes.

According to Wolkodoff, “one of the surprise realizations was that just swinging a golf club about 100 times uses up a significant amount of energy.”As for what affected a players performance, Wolkodoff was able to establish that when a player exceeded his or her anaerobic threshold (out of breath) their play became ineffective. “If you’re out of shape, exceeding your threshold could happen a few times every round, even while riding in a cart, because tee boxes and green complexes are often elevated.”So perhaps this information begs the question, “is golf a sport rather than a game?””There are a lot of ways to define a sport,” Wolkodoff said. “But we know that the golf swing uses almost every muscle group in the body. We know it uses a pretty significant amount of energy — not as much as running a 10K, but more than people think. And one significant measure of a sport is whether physical training improves your ability to perform, and I think that’s been proven in golf.”But then there’s always those party poopers. Greg Nathan, senior vice president for the National Golf Foundation felt that Wolkdoff’s study indicated some “positives to golf being helpful to people’s health and wellness. But there can be an opposite effect. The renting of golf cars is important to the health and welfare of the golf industry.”To that I say “poppycock”! Are carts an “in the black” feature for golf courses? I think an in-depth analysis might surprise you. The bottom line is closer than you might think. The revenue stream is easy — you walk in and plunk down your $10 or $15 or it’s built into the green fee.The costs are a little more elusive. Between the costs of the cart, maintenance of the cart, refueling or charging of the batteries, constructing a five mile long (or greater) eight foot wide and 3-4 inch thick concrete ribbon for carts to use and most importantly damage to the course, I just…well, you get the picture. Cart paths are a big pain in the butt. They are ugly, block drainage, cause erosion, wet spots, dry spots (along the edges), wear at exits and entrances and they affect the play of the course. And then there is the direct cost to you the player. How many golf balls have you had scuffed by a slightly off line shot hitting the cart path? What’s that worth?So, getting back to walking the course, Wolkodoff’s data may not be statistically valid, but it gives us some quantitative evidence for something we’ve already felt was correct intuitively. If nothing else, I hope it encourages further research. The golf industry may resist, but walking the course is better for you the player, better for your performance and much better for the physical conditioning of the course. If you’ve never played a course that has no cart paths,let me tell you, its right up there with having a caddie in my book. So, Lads and Lassies improve yer gemme, yerselves and yer favourite goff links – walkin’ is how it’s meant to be!A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.

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