Scottish Golf CEO calls for doctors to prescribe golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 14, 2019 09:51

The CEO of Scottish Golf, Andrew McKinlay, has called for the game to be prescribed on the NHS to help combat mental and physical health problems.

McKinlay, a contributor to The Golf Business, was talking to BBC Scotland after it emerged that Scottish golf clubs are projected to lose nearly half of their members between 2007 and 2027.

Scotland now has fewer than 190,000 golf club members, having lost over 75,000 members between 2005 and 2017, a drop of almost 29 per cent.

He said he has held talks with government agency Sport Scotland about the possibility of replicating projects in London where GPs prescribe golf rounds for patients with heart disease or respiratory problems.

He said: “My understanding is that there is social prescribing for sport but very much focused on walking and the gym, and more physical benefits.

“My view is, yes there’s a physical aspect to golf, but I see a massive benefit to mental health – around depression.

“We all know we have huge problems with health in this country and I think golf could be a huge force for good in that.”

He also said Scottish golf clubs should relax rules surrounding dress codes and mobile phone usage in order to attract more juniors to the sport.

He said the attitudes and rules of some golf clubs in Scotland need to change in order to attract new players, and a cultural change among the country’s golf clubs was needed.

“If you say to a kid you have to dress up to go to the golf course, it’s not going to happen – they’re not going to do it,” he said.

“Or if you say to a kid, you can’t use your mobile phone, that’s not going to happen either.

“Some clubs will be determined to maintain their traditions and they are perfectly entitled to do that but do you know what? For the good of the future of your club, you need to embrace some of these things.”

Another plan to stop the decline, according to Mr McKinlay, focuses on trying to help clubs monetise the so called “nomad golfers” who take advantage of online deals that allows pay per play without membership.

“Like so many things in life, people are consuming the product in a different way,” he said.

“It’s important we acknowledge that, recognise that and find a way for them to be part of our environment as well.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of GPs and Sport England have teamed up to launch the very first Active Practice Charter to inspire and celebrate GP practices that are taking steps to increase activity and reduce sedentary behaviour in their patients and staff.

To become an ‘Active Practice’ and receive a certificate recognising their status, surgeries will demonstrate that they have taken a number of steps, including:

  • Reducing sedentary behaviour in patients and staff
  • Increasing physical activity in patients and staff
  • Partnering with a local physical activity provider to support the practice to get more people active.

Research shows that doing regular physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by as much as 35 per cent and decrease the risk of early death by as much as 30 per cent.

However, the UK population is around 20 per cent less active than during the 1960s.

One in four patients say they would be more active if it was recommended by a GP or nurse. And while many GPs already promote physical activity in their surgeries, some identify barriers to prescribing exercise or discussing physical activity – for example, not having enough time in the consultation to have effective conversations with patients.

Dr Andrew Boyd, RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle said: “Busy GPs can’t be expected to do everything when it comes to getting the nation more active, but we can play a vital role in starting the conversation with patients.

“By making small changes in our own workplace – using standing desks, encouraging active transport for staff, and partnering with local physical activity providers, for example – we can demonstrate to patients that being more active is good for everyone’s physical and mental health.”

Sport England’s CEO Tim Hollingworth said: “Physical activity has a key role to play in helping people manage and improve their health and wellbeing. As trusted sources of information, GPs and practice teams have a real opportunity to start discussions that help it become the new normal in their community – for prevention as well as treatment.

“This toolkit will help busy GPs talk to patients about getting active and recommend local opportunities as part of their routine practice. We’re delighted to be celebrating those GP practices who are promoting active lifestyles to patients and staff through the Active Practice Charter.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “All GPs know that encouraging patients to be more active can have huge benefits on their health and wellbeing and, in some cases, drastically improve conditions such as diabetes and heart disease – even dementia.

“But having the time to advise patients on lifestyle in the current 10-minute consultation can be a huge challenge, especially when there are often so many other things we need to discuss and when this probably wasn’t the reason the patient has made the appointment – so taking a practice-wide approach to encouraging healthier lifestyles, for all of us, is a great idea.

“I’m delighted to see this project come to fruition and hope it helps practices up and down the country, including my own, further promote the truly life-changing health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity and keeping an active lifestyle.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 14, 2019 09:51
Write a comment


  1. deejaym August 16, 08:17

    Remarkable. Head of Quango seeks further dollops of taxpayer cash…..

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jeremy August 9, 11:19

    Great idea but actually nothing new here, in early 1900s Dr Alister MacKenzie prescribed golf to the unfit and ill before he became one of our finest golf course architects! Read his thoughts in ‘The Spirit of St Andrews’. It’s the best golf book ever written…

    Buy it here…

    #golfcourse #golf #golfcoach #golfswing #europeantour #usopen #lpga #pgatour #pga #golfer #golflife #golfing #theopen #usga #golfarchitecture #harrycolt #britishamateur #straightdownthemiddle

    Reply to this comment
  3. Maro August 8, 12:34

    Wonderful Idea ! #Golf => #Holistic #Wellness #Bliss

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: