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Is Hitting Golf Balls Good Exercise? Here’s The Data

Is Hitting Golf Balls Good Exercise? Here’s The Data

Golf was once a sport that was only for the old, overweight, and otherwise unhealthy. That’s no longer the case.

Just turn on a PGA Tour tournament today, and you’ll see that most golfers are now thin and fit.

Many professional golfers are in excellent shape today thanks to improvements in nutrition, supplementation and exercise. Is it considered exercise to play a round of golf, or pound the driving range?

Let’s take a look at what the research has to say.


Table of Contents

  • Calories burned playing a round vs hitting balls at The Range
  • Tips to Make your Next Round of Golf More Like an Exercise
  • Tips to Make Hitting at the Range More Like an Exercise

Calories burned playing a round vs hitting balls at The Range

Does golf qualify as exercise? According to NutriStrategy research, it does. However, does it qualify as “good” exercise? It all depends on the type and length of your golf activity.

For example, playing 18 holes of golf per hour burns more calories than just hitting balls at the range. Walking on the course burns a lot more calories that practicing your swing at the range.

There are other factors to consider such as whether you will be walking the course with your clubs and/or using a golf cart. The following chart will show you how many calories each activity on the golf course burns per hour, based on your weight.

Golf Activity Cals/Hr
(130 lbs)
(155 lbs)
(180 lbs)
(205 lbs)
Golf: Walking while carrying clubs 266 317 368 419
Golf: Walking but using a pull cart to get clubs 254 303 351 400
Golf: Riding in an ATV 207 246 286 326
Driving Range Golf Balls 177 211 245 279


Tips to make your next round of golf more of an exercise

The chart below will give you some tips for making your next round of Golf more effective in calorie burning. These suggestions may help you burn calories and even lose some weight (if that’s your goal).

1. Walking is better than riding in a golf cart

This tip is the easiest. Walking is a great cardiovascular exercise that can lower your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Experts agree that at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise is necessary each week. 

Walking with your golf clubs, or walking with a pull cart, is considered moderate exercise. Playing a round of golf with a cart is considered light exercise.

The above table shows that a 205-pound golfer can burn 93 calories more per hour if he walks and carries his clubs rather than riding in a cart. Although it may not seem like much, this adds up to significant calories over a four-hour round.

Being able to carry your clubs on a regular basis can help you gain strength which could result in more power off the tee. If you aren’t able to carry your clubs, start off by using a pull cart instead. This will help a 180-pound person to burn 65 calories per hour more than using a cart.

2. Spend less time in a cart if it is being used

We know that many golfers prefer to use a golf cart while on their rounds. While that’s not ideal from an exercise standpoint, anything is better than nothing. Golf is a better choice than sitting on the couch.

One way to burn some extra calories, even if you’re using a cart, is to not spend too much time sitting in it. You may be thinking, “Well duh, thank you Captain Obvious,” but stick with me.

Do some stretching while you wait on the tee boxes for the group in front to finish. This will help you burn more calories, keep warm, and reduce the likelihood of a strain or pull.


Tips to Make Hitting at the Range More Like an Exercise

Even casual golfers know that if they want to reduce their handicaps, they need to spend a lot of time at the driving range.

The problem is that someone weighing 205 lbs burns 140 calories per hour on the driving range, compared to playing on a real course (if walking or carrying clubs). We have some tips to help you get more exercise at the golf course.

1. Stretch before and after your range session

It’s a great habit that you can develop is stretching before any type of exercise. Before you start any golf activities, be sure to stretch your shoulders, arms and lower back.

Each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds before you move onto the next.

2. At the end of your practice session, work your abdominals

Just because you are at the driving range doesn’t mean you can’t give your abdominal muscles a good workout.

When you’re finished hitting golf balls, drop down on the mat and knock out some crunches and leg lifts. This will increase your core strength and eventually will lead to more yardage off of the tee.

It is a good drill to hit 50-60 balls, then do 50-60 reps in some form of ab exercise. Some folks on the range may look at you kind of funny, but you aren’t there to impress them.

Remember that the goal of a good range session, besides lowering your handicap, is to get a lot of exercise.

3. Don’t Forget to Work on Your Short Game

To shoot lower scores, improve your short game. Don’t leave without hitting several putts on the practice green and chip shots out of a bunker if possible.

This will help you burn more calories and increase your practice time.