Social Prescribing Day: “Golf for Health” Project Profile

Thursday 14 March 2024

Today is Social Prescribing Day, an annual celebration of the people, organisations and communities that facilitate social prescribing. Social prescribing connects people to non-medical local support and services that help to improve health and wellbeing, acknowledging that socio-economic factors are a significant determinant of health.

The School of Medicine’s “Golf for Health” EAGLE Project embraces this philosophy – and the research behind it – by connecting eligible primary care patients with appropriate local golf activities to encourage physical activity. To mark Social Prescribing Day 2024, we profiled this pioneering health initiative, examining the impetus behind the project and the feedback from participants and facilitators thus far.

What inspired the “Golf for Health” project?

The ”Golf for Health” project was developed in response to the significant public health issue posed by the low rates of physical activity across the UK. A physically inactive lifestyle is known to be associated with serious and significant adverse population health and wellbeing outcomes, as well as having a negative economic impact. In the UK specifically, 1 in 6 deaths are associated with physical activity, which also costs the country’s economy £7.4 billion annually. Yet while the need promote physical activity is clear, such behavioural change is not easy to achieve.

To help address this issue, researchers from the School of Medicine have been working to build a pathway whereby patients who would benefit from physical activity can be easily referred to a local golf programme. While reactively prescribing treatments for health issues after they have arisen is important, this kind of “social prescribing” allows GPs to proactively prescribe physical activity in an effort to prevent future health problems.

Why golf?

Given the established health benefits of moderate-intensity exercise, which golf provides, the research team decided to leverage the abundance of golf courses in Fife to pilot a social prescribing scheme. There are over 50 courses across the Kingdom, 10 of which are located in St Andrews. Partnering with the R&A, European Tour, NHS Fife, Scottish Golf, Fife Golf Trust and others, the School launched the “Golf for Health” programme in 2022.

What does the “Golf for Health” programme entail?

The programme provides 6-8 weeks of free golf lessons at a local club to small groups of patients who aren’t meeting the World Health Organization’s physical activity guideline (150 minutes per week). These sessions are designed to be active and teach participants the fundamentals of how to play golf, covering the grip, stance and swing; driving; irons and putting. Crucially, the sessions also help participants form new social connections in a friendly and welcoming environment. Thus far, the team has run two pilot phases of the programme with nearly 50 participants taking part across five clubs in Fife.

What do the participants say?

The two pilot phases have been extremely well received, with survey and focus-group feedback from participants, healthcare professionals, golf club staff and community link workers all reflecting a beneficial experience:

“The Golf for Health program is an excellent idea. I would highly recommend it to anyone with underlying health condition who is looking for more social interaction, would like to be more active and just generally would like to learn a new skill. I had a brilliant time! I hope many more people will be able to join the programme in the future.”


“I think this has been a great idea, and useful programme. A lot of people rely on medication to help them get better, but sometimes by stepping outside, getting some fresh air, exercising regularly and mixing with others, that can really help people. We would be happy to continue to promote this.”

Healthcare Professional (Practice Manager)

“I would feel there is a massive potential benefit to patients if this was in their local area due to the nature of their conditions. My role is very varied and I support patients in a multitude of aspects. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Golf for Health programme, and I hope we can assist in the future to signpost and refer patients.”

Community Link Worker

“Anyone who is referred by a doctor needs help. We can do this. Getting involved wasn’t just about getting people into golf, it was about helping people.”

Golf Club Staff Member

Given the success of the first iterations, the researchers behind “Golf for Health” plan to develop, optimise and redeliver this programme on a larger scale in the near future. While they have had a fantastic experience working with local clubs and communities, they are eager to expand the initiative to introduce its benefits to communities out of Fife.

For more information on “Golf for Health”, please email [email protected].

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