There’s an old saying that a round of golf is actually “a good walk spoiled.” Whether you love the game or end up throwing your clubs in a pond, there’s no doubt that 18 holes of golf offers a good, long walk. But if you’re trying to lose weight, or you’re following a fitness routine, “good” may not be an adequate definition. The exact distance you’ll walk during your next round will vary depending on several factors, but you can count on walking at least a couple of miles.
Take a glance at your scorecard before you begin play and you’ll find the golf course’s total tee-to-green length from the various tee boxes, which offers a starting point to estimate how far you’ll walk. A typical course has at least three different tees on each hole, with women generally playing from the shorter or the middle tees. The middle tees on a regulation 18-hole course typically play from 6,200 to 6,600 yards, according to Armstrong Golf Architects. Women, however, typically play to about 5,800 yards -- or about 3.3 miles -- per 18 holes, according to course designer Alice Dye.
The actual distance you walk during your round depends in part on the accuracy of your shots. In a 2009 “Golf Digest” article, writer Ron Kapriske speculated that women likely walk fewer yards than men because women don’t hit the ball as far. As a result, when a woman’s shot goes astray, it doesn’t go as far off course as a man’s errant shot. A 2012 “Inside Golf” article confirmed that poor golfers walked a bit more than low handicappers. Golfers playing without a cart on a 6,246-yard course walked an average of 5.3 miles per 18 holes. The better players, however, averaged 5.1 miles per round -- those with high handicaps walked 5.5 miles.
Riding or Walking?
If you want the best possible workout from your round, ditch the cart and walk the course. In 2009, “Golf Digest” assistant editor Ashley Mayo counted her steps while playing courses that averaged 5,478 yards, and translated her strides into yardage. When she used a cart and drove straight to her ball, Mayo walked an average of 2.4 miles per 18 holes. When she only drove on cart paths, she increased her distance to 2.9 miles. But when she walked the course without a cart, her total jumped to 5.7 miles per round. The article also estimated that golfers burned 1,442 calories walking for 18 holes.
Total Distance Walked
A step is a step, whether you’re walking down the fairway or in the parking lot. When “Inside Golf” magazine used smartphone GPS technology to track a group of golfers, beginning when they arrived at the course, it found that the players walked an additional 0.6 miles off the course -- from the parking to the club, around the clubhouse and on the practice tee, for example. (ref 4)
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.