Golf is the key to tackling obesity crisis says EU

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2015 10:45

A new EU-funded project is to explore how to get more people playing golf as researchers believe the game is key to tackling Europe’s current epidemics of physical inactivity, obesity and low youth participation in sport.

tony alter

Image by Tony Alter

Academics from the University of St Andrews and scientists from the University of Edinburgh will meet with major organisations from the European golf sector at the 144th Open Championship in St Andrews this week in an effort to better describe the health benefits of golf and to explore ways to increase participation across the EU.

Together they have created the new GoGolf Europe project, which has secured funding from the European Commission under Erasmus+, the EU programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport for 2014 to 2020. The project will unite five European countries, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, the Netherlands and Portugal, in a three year initiative designed to test innovative new access pathways to golf for European youth while also documenting the unique health benefits which the sport can provide to all people.

Richard Heath, general secretary of the European Golf Association (EGA), the organisation leading the project, commented: “Europe has excellent capacity for golf with over 6,700 courses and some 7.9 million citizens already playing the sport. Nonetheless, we are facing significant challenges in effectively engaging young people to take up the sport and we are actively seeking innovative new solutions for growing youth participation.”

In conjunction with the EGA, the project will unite the national golf governing bodies of the five participating countries alongside the PGAs of Europe, the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment and the University of St Andrews as the official research partner. Alongside the funding support from the European Union, co-financing will also be provided by the PGA European Tour and the EGA.

Dr Rehema M White, of the University of St Andrews’ Sustainable Development Department, said: “Europe is currently experiencing a crisis in physical inactivity and we are going to focus on showcasing and documenting the particular contributions which golf can make to overcoming these worrying trends.

“The GoGolf project unites an excellent group of partner organisations with real potential to deliver positive and impacting change for the industry and we are very much looking forward to collaborating and providing support from the research perspective over the next three years.”

jordan spieth jake owen eric charlton

Jordan Spieth and Jake Owen. Image by Eric Charlton

Current rates of physical inactivity are worryingly high, as evidenced by the recently published 2014 Eurobarometer report on Sport and Physical Activity which found that:

  • 59 percent of EU citizens never or seldom exercise or play sport at least once a week
  • Almost three-quarters of EU citizens (74 percent) say that they are not members of any club, a seven percent increase since 2009.

Dr White continued: “Amongst all sports, golf offers a unique suite of health opportunities. The aim of our research is to help us understand how to encourage young people to take up sport in general, and golf in particular, to improve their health and wellbeing.

“In Scotland we are lucky enough to have an existing network of golf clubs and courses, providing a mix of facilities. Anyone can pick up a club and chase their ball across the windblown and sheep grazed Askernish Golf Course on the Isle of South Uist, or around the green fairways of well-established Banchory or on one of the many urban courses scattered across Glasgow and Edinburgh. Visitors are offered a diverse choice of facilities around the country. Perhaps best of all, golf has one of the broadest age brackets – from eight to 80 years old.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2015 10:45
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