Chris Stoat realized how fortunate she was to be a golfer over the past two years.
The 78-year-old took up the sport in 2018, giving her some time to improve her swing before COVID-19 came along and crowded the links with people seeking a social and physical outlet during the lockdowns.
“It’s so well-suited to COVID: you’re outside, you’re social distancing, you’re active, and it’s something you enjoy,” Ms. Stoat says.
She’s among a growing group of retirees who have taken up golf in recent years and are planning to follow through with the popular pandemic pastime.
Golf is well-suited to seniors because it’s accessible, fun and helps to improve their cardiovascular fitness and mental health, says Kevin Blue, chief sport officer with Golf Canada.
He says a typical day of golf burns between 850 to 1,500 calories and allows participants to improve their flexibility and strength.
“Yet, it’s relatively free of strenuous activity,” he says.
About 5.7 million Canadians play golf in Canada, according to the Professional Golfers’ Association of Canada. Many took up the sport during the pandemic when few other activities were allowed, Mr. Blue says. A National Golf Course Owners Association survey found the number of rounds played across Canada rose 29.5 per cent in April 2021 compared to 2019.
Pat Sanderson, 79, noticed a surge in new golfers over the past few years.
“There was a big turnover” of players at her Toronto-area club, which she joined with her husband six years ago. “It can get very busy.”
How to get started
While retirees don’t need a lot of training before getting into the sport, they may want to consider taking a few lessons to get a sense of the game and its rules, Mr. Blue says.
Ms. Sanderson took some lessons on chipping (short shots) and driving (long shots) before getting on the green. She also practised at a golf range and continues to take lessons with a golf pro to maintain her skills.
“Those were very beneficial,” she says.
While it’s tempting to purchase an expensive set of clubs, “equipment is not necessary at the beginning,” Mr. Blue.
He notes that many golf clubs provide equipment rentals, which can help newbies to the game figure out what clubs they like best.
“You don’t need a whole set of clubs to play golf at the [early] stage,” Ms. Stoat says, adding that she started out with a few pieces, gradually building her collection with drivers and a “great 8-iron.”
She suggests beginners buy used clubs until they commit to playing regularly.
New sets of clubs can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, Mr. Blue says.
It’s also not imperative new golfers join a golf club, which can cost thousands of dollars annually in addition to an initiation fee.
While clubs can offer several amenities such as onsite restaurants, special programs, training, equipment rentals and fitness rooms, many new golfers start on less expensive public golf courses run by a town or city.
“The majority of golf is played in Canada on public courses where people pay daily green fees,” says Mr. Blue, adding these have different price points.
Wear the right clothes and pace yourself
The right clothing can also make or break a good game of golf. It’s a good idea to choose a comfortable outfit, Mr. Blue says. And while many stores sell golf shoes and shirts, for most public courses, attire is casual, he adds.
“Many people play in running shoes – golf shoes are for more serious golfers,” he says, adding that “golf has gone more accessible and casual.”
People should also be realistic about their fitness level. For instance, someone with a mobility issue might find walking an 18-hole course too demanding, and a nine-hole course might be a better option, especially at first. Renting a golf cart can also help navigate taxing terrain.
Ms. Stoat also recommends stretching ahead of a round of golf.
“Your back and your arm can get sore,” she says.
Also, she suggests new golfers have relatively low expectations for their first few games.
“Don’t be hard on yourself; don’t expect that you’ll play like the masters.”