Doctors in Fife are prescribing golf to patients

The Golf Businessin General Interest

Doctors in Fife, Scotland have been prescribing golf to patients under a new health initiative in partnership with local golf clubs.

This development comes six years after the Local Government Association said that doctors in England and Wales should offer overweight patients 'green space' prescriptions to get them exercising outdoors, and nearly four years after Scottish Golf called for the game to be prescribed on the NHS to help combat mental and physical health problems.

Designed to encourage more people into an active lifestyle, researchers at the University of St Andrews School of Medicine have developed a model in partnership with the R&A, Fife Golf Trust, NHS Fife, Scottish Golf, PGA Scotland, the European Tour Group and Ladies European Tour to enable primary care professionals and community link workers to prescribe golf for eligible patients.

The initiative was rolled out towards the end of last year and will continue this spring.

GP practices in Fife were invited to take part in a pilot study, with participating practices linked, initially, with four local golf clubs, Cluny Clays, Dunfermline, Dunnikier Park and Elmwood, offering a six-to-eight week, free-of-charge programme.

Around 30 participants were involved.

Frank Sullivan, professor of primary care medicine at the University of St Andrews, said: "This pilot initiative has been carefully designed to offer an accessible and social introduction to golf and to provide long-term health and wellbeing benefits for patients across Fife.

"Our focus on developing connection pathways that are acceptable and feasible to implement for all involved is crucial. The most effective intervention in the world will not achieve its intended outcomes if patients are not connected with it."

Linda Duncan, one of the participants at Cluny, said, "Golf has become something for me. It's helped me get out in the fresh air and meet other people. The health benefits for me have been ten, 20, 30-fold."

The R&A has committed funding to the 'Golf for Health' project to support research at the university and the delivery of pilot golf packages by golf partners. The project has also been supported by founding partner ISPS Handa through its work with the university.

Once pilot testing of the model has taken place in Fife, the findings will be evaluated and assessed for the feasibility of a larger-scale roll-out across Scotland and the UK.
Kevin Barker, director of Golf Development - The R&A, added, "The R&A is actively promoting the health benefits of golf to encourage more people into the sport.

"We see social prescription as a great way for golf to contribute to the health of communities and to provide people with opportunities to enjoy playing the sport throughout their lifetime."

In 2020 a US study into mortality among the over 65s found participants tended to live longer if they played golf at least once a month, and a 2012 Swedish study found that being an active member of a golf club could add three and a half years to an elderly person's life.


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