Does Golf Really Relieve Stress?

Does Golf Really Relieve Stress?

The Double-Edged Sword of the Links

As I stroll onto the perfectly manicured fairway of Eagle Ridge Golf Club, club in hand, I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation and dread wash over me. Will this round be the one where I finally find my groove and conquer the course, or will it be another battle of wills against the unforgiving terrain and my own inner demons?

You see, golf has always been a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it’s a peaceful escape from the stresses of everyday life, a chance to immerse myself in the serenity of nature and focus solely on the task at hand. But on the other, it can be a relentless source of frustration, anxiety, and self-doubt, as I constantly strive to improve my game and live up to my own unrealistic expectations. [1]

It’s a conundrum that I’m sure many of my fellow golfers can relate to. We’re drawn to the sport for its tranquility and the promise of mental rejuvenation, yet it can often leave us feeling more frazzled and tense than when we started. So, the question remains: does golf really relieve stress, or is it just an illusion?

The Allure of the Green

As I take my first swing, the weight of the world seems to melt away. The rhythmic motion, the crisp contact with the ball, the gentle breeze caressing my face – it’s all very Zen-like, a soothing balm for the soul. [2]

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, a leading psychologist has championed the role golf can play in reducing stress and supporting good mental health. Professor Jenny Roe, an environmental psychologist and the Director of the Center for Design & Health at the University of Virginia, says that golf is one way of benefiting from a regular “dose” of green space to boost psychological wellbeing and physical health. [1]

“There’s a wealth of evidence, using robust, scientific methods, to show the benefits of ‘green exercise’ – exercise in the natural outdoors – compared to exercise indoors, including the gym,” says Professor Roe. “When you step into a green space, there’s a number of things that happen with both your physiology and your psychology. Your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in – the system that’s associated with relaxation – and your stress physiology actually changes. You literally manage stress more efficiently when you are in a green space.” [1]

It’s a sentiment that resonates with me deeply. There’s something about the rolling hills, the towering trees, and the soothing sounds of the water hazards that just seems to melt away my worries. It’s as if the very essence of the course is imbued with a calming energy, a natural tranquilizer for the mind and body.

The Paradox of Perfection

But as I move from one hole to the next, the serenity I once felt begins to fade, replaced by a growing sense of frustration and self-criticism. My shots veer off course, my putting stroke falters, and the once-forgiving fairways now seem to taunt me with every errant swing. [3]

It’s a familiar pattern, one that many golfers know all too well. We come to the course seeking respite from the stresses of daily life, only to find ourselves consumed by a new set of anxieties – the pressure to perform, the fear of embarrassment, the relentless pursuit of perfection.

“It can be particularly stressful because, unlike team sports, you very much have the spotlight on you while you’re playing,” explains Victor Thompson, a London-based sports psychologist. “You’ve got a lot of time between your shots for you to think, time for other people to watch you and time for you to think about what people will think of you if you don’t play well.” [2]

And it’s not just the pros who feel this way. Even recreational golfers like myself can’t seem to escape the weight of our own expectations. “It can actually be tougher playing against your mates and people you know because they can ridicule you or laugh at you, or you might worry about disappointing them if you’re playing on their team,” says Thompson. [2]

Finding the Balance

As I trudge back to the clubhouse, my scorecard a disheartening testament to my struggles, I can’t help but feel a sense of defeat. Did I really come here to relieve stress, only to end up more tense and anxious than when I started? [4]

It’s a question that plagues many golfers, and the research suggests that the answer is not a simple one. A 2004 study on the moods of older recreational golfers found that the subjects reported feeling more angry and depressed after playing, and less vigorous and fatigued. [2] Hardly the stress-relieving panacea we might have hoped for.

But before we throw in the towel on golf’s mental health benefits, there’s another side to the story. Haydn Jarrett, a senior lecturer in sport and exercise science at the University of Worcester, has conducted unpublished research showing that a round of golf can actually lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure. [2] And Professor Roe’s insights on the power of “green exercise” suggest that the physical and psychological benefits of being out on the course may ultimately outweigh the occasional bout of frustration.

The key, it seems, is finding the right balance – embracing the tranquility and mental rejuvenation that golf can provide, while managing the inevitable ups and downs of the game with a healthy perspective and a focus on the bigger picture. [5] It’s a delicate dance, to be sure, but one that I’m determined to master.

As I head home, I can’t help but feel a renewed sense of determination. Golf may be a double-edged sword, but with the right mindset and a little bit of practice, I believe I can learn to wield it with grace and find the true stress relief I’ve been seeking. After all, what’s a few errant shots when I have the vast, verdant expanse of Eagle Ridge Golf Club to explore and enjoy? [6]


[1] Golf & Health Project. (2024). “Golf Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Health, Says Leading Expert.” Retrieved from

[2] CNN. (2009). “Golf: A Stress-Inducing Pastime?” Retrieved from

[3] Piqua Country Club. (n.d.). “How Playing Golf Reduces Stress and Anxiety.” Retrieved from

[4] Newsweek. (2023). “How Golf Is Helping PGA Tour Players Address Mental Health.” Retrieved from

[5] University of Colorado Law. (n.d.). “25 Quick Ways to Reduce Stress.” Retrieved from

[6] Circle Health Group. (n.d.). “10 Great Benefits of Playing Golf.” Retrieved from

[7] The Breath Effect. (n.d.). “Golf Anxiety: How to Manage It and Perform Your Best.” Retrieved from

[8] WebMD. (n.d.). “The Mental Health Benefits of Sports.” Retrieved from

Share this :

Related Articles

Sit maecenas consequat massa nibh duis dolor nulla vulputate blandit purus nisl donec lobortis interdum donec etiam.