Community 11.07.23

Grant awarded to explore the benefits of golf for people with Parkinson’s and dementia

Sheffield Hallam University has teamed up with Golf in Society and Sport for Confidence to explore how golf can improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life for older adults who are experiencing age-related issues such as memory loss, episodes of confusion or reduced ability to concentrate.

It is understood that golf can improve mental, physical and social health whilst providing respite for carers and supporters. Golf in Society data has shown that players make 27 decisions per golf shot, with 33 social interactions experienced during 90 minutes of moderate exercise. An average of 1,010 steps are taken per session.  

The £350,000 grant for the Golf Clubs as Health Hubs study, was secured through Innovate UK’s Scaling Social Ventures competition which supports social enterprises in developing products and services that tackle the impact of ageing. The study will be delivered at Hillsborough Golf Club and Rotherham Golf Club over three months during the summer. Each session caters for 10 individuals and will be delivered by a Golf in Society coach working alongside a Sport for Confidence occupational therapist and physiotherapist. The programme will be tailored to the individual needs of participants.

Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and Sport Industry Research Group (SIRG) will measure the success of the programme through a series of participant surveys and health assessments. 

Golf in Society is a social enterprise that aims to transform the lives of ageing populations by reimagining and repurposing golf clubs as community-based outpatient clinics. It has been evidenced that for every £1 invested, the Golf in Society programme delivers a return of £16.46 in social value. This latest community-based project coincides with the NHS 75th anniversary, supporting the breakdown of barriers between sports participation, health and research.   

Anthony Blackburn, founder of Golf in Society, said: “This funding will enable us to run a research programme measuring the positive impact golf can have, when applied as a therapeutic tool, on those who are frail and living with memory loss or dementia. 

“To design and deliver the programme we have teamed up with Sport for Confidence, a community interest company operating out of Essex dedicated to unlocking the potential of occupational therapists in a prevention rather than cure, community-based health care system. Our research programme will evaluate the impact of prescribed and administered physical activity on strength, life satisfaction, self-esteem and confidence as well as the added value this programme delivers to carers and supporters, in terms of enabling respite.” 

Dr Rachel Young, senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “There is a growing need for people with age related cognitive changes to be able to engage in purposeful physical activity within a normalised context. Equally, caregivers need to be able to access peer support and take time away from their caring responsibilities in the knowledge that their dependent is safe. Golf in Society has created this opportunity and the project will provide the added benefit of expert physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions for golfing participants and their caregivers” 

Liz Fletcher, national team lead at Sport for Confidence, said: “There are some great synergies between Sport for Confidence and Golf in Society. We are already evidencing the positive impact of moving treatment from a clinical to a community environment and placing physical activity at the heart of therapeutic practice. I am confident that this latest research programme will add to the evidence we have already collated, further strengthening the case for more physical activity-based, community preventative health initiatives to help alleviate the pressures on the NHS and drive a healthier, happier and more prosperous society.” 

UKRI creates knowledge with impact by investing over £8bn a year in research and innovation through the UK’s nine leading funding councils. 

Find out more about the Golf Clubs as Health Hubs programme