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The R&A and School of Medicine “joint” Action

A new collaboration between the University of St Andrews’ School of Medicine and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (R&A) looks to use golf to increase the activity level of adult patients.

The Golf for Health initiative was rolled out across Fife in partnership with the University of St Andrews and The R&A, with the involvement of Dr Andrew Murray of the School of Medicine. Dr Murray is an honorary senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews and consultant for The R&A. The R&A, based in St Andrews, is the collective name of a group of companies that plays a significant role in the world of golf.

Frank Sullivan, Professor of Primary Care Medicine and Medical School Director of Research at the University, described the program as “a research project addressing the fact that the health of many adults could improve with increased exercise. Golf may be one way to encourage such an increase. We are interested on how clinicians and patients interact to change behaviours and this project will offer insights into that process.”

Four local golf clubs, Cluny Clays, Dunfermline, Dunnikier Park and Elmwood, participated, offering a free six to eight week program involving 30 participants last year with plans to increase that number this spring.

According to Professor Sullivan, tangible benefits to golf are, “Improved physical and mental health.”

Professor Sullivan said there would soon be a video summarising feedback from participants that will be available shortly.

In a video on the R&A’s website, Dr Murray commented, “The pilot that has been going in Fife has been very successful. We wanted to get people playing golf to benefit their physical and mental health. The feedback that we’ve heard is that people have taken part, enjoyed it and it’s benefiting their health so it’s going really well.”

The program also has the potential for a wider application in the future.

Professor Sullivan said, “If the current initiative demonstrates ‘proof of concept’ and appears [scalable] we will work with colleagues across the UK to apply to NIHR for an adequately powered cluster randomised trial. [ Should that prove cost-effective, we would engage with policymakers to implement the scheme elsewhere.”

The R&A has frequently been involved in scientific research regarding the health benefits of golf.

They support the Golf and Health project, an organisation dedicated to publishing scientific research about the mental and physical benefits of the sport. Their 2016 to 2020 Golf and Health Report stated that, on average, golfers live five years longer than non-golfers, and playing golf can “help prevent and treat 40 major chronic diseases”.

Illustration: Clodagh Earl

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