Mr P. X Health In Mind: Why Golf Is Good For Your Mind, Body And Style

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Mr P. X Health In Mind: Why Golf Is Good For Your Mind, Body And Style

Words by Mr Dan Davies | Photography by Mr Robbie Lawrence | Styling by Mr Olie Arnold

24 May 2021

Whisper it, but golf is booming. A sport that has long been considered fusty and elitist by those who don’t play (and even some who do) has emerged from the pandemic as an unlikely success story. Unlikely because what preceded the current boom was a long downward trend in both the numbers of golf club members and rounds being played each year. Those who enjoy knocking golf – and there are plenty of them – cited this decline as evidence of a game that was out of touch.

Not any more, it seems. In the last three months of 2020, the number of people playing golf in the UK was up 41 per cent compared with the same period in 2019. Between July and September, the number of rounds played rose by an even more remarkable 59 per cent. The picture is similar in the US, where there was a 37 per cent year-on-year spike in participation last December.

So, what gives? The simple answer is the essence of golf itself: quality time spent with friends in the great outdoors doing something you love. Life’s small but essential luxuries have become more important than ever over the past 12 months and the mental and physical benefits of golf are being championed. The result is more golfers wanting to play more regularly, more lapsed players returning to the game and more people deciding to park their prejudices and get involved.

These factors and more (did we mention that we have a number of golf obsessives in our midst?) have contributed to the creation of the first golf capsule from Mr P., which is being launched in support of MR PORTER Health In Mind, our charitable and editorial initiative supporting men’s mental health. From 24 May to 6 June, 100 per cent of net profits from sales of the Mr P. golf capsule will be donated to the Health In Mind Fund, which is run in partnership with Movember.

“Golf is a sport that blends style and camaraderie, two things we cherish at Mr P.,” says Mr Olie Arnold, MR PORTER’s Style Director and a keen golfer himself. The collection, which is designed to be worn on and off the course, features reimagined silhouettes from the most stylish period in the game’s history, but chimes with golf’s new, more relaxed spirit. But if Mr P.’s slimline chinos in the finest stretch cotton and Johnny collar polo shirts don’t have you reaching for the clubs, then perhaps the insights from the following health experts will.

According to a 2008 study by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. This corresponds to a five-year increase in life expectancy. That golf is good for your health was underlined in the Golf And Health Report published in 2020 by The R&A, the sport’s governing body outside the US and Mexico. The report presented evidence that playing the game can help combat 40 serious diseases, including diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, colon cancer and depression, among numerous other health benefits.

Playing golf regularly can help reduce anxiety, improve confidence and boost self-esteem, all of which contribute to improved mental wellbeing, says Dr Andrew Murray of the University of Edinburgh. Golf is a social game. Playing 18 holes should take no longer than three and a half hours, time that keeps men socially connected and that allows for meaningful interaction between different generations. “It is also part of the loneliness agenda, part of good mental health,” says Mr Steve Brine, former UK parliamentary under secretary of state for public health and primary care. “Increasingly, there is evidence that golf is very good for managing long-term conditions, helping people stay focused and stay active for longer.”

Professor Jenny Roe, an environmental psychologist at the University of Virginia, highlights the fact golf courses contain many of the natural features – water, biodiversity, variety and undulations in the landscape and light patterns – that help to reduce stress and induce calm. Better still, some of the best courses contain them all. “Contact with nature slows down our stress response and induces calm,” she says. “There is evidence to show this is happening in our biological system. It is promoting stress resilience, it is improving our mood, it is decreasing our risk of depression and increasing our social wellbeing, particularly on a golf course where you are interacting with other members of that community.”

“Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, adding years to life and increasing health and happiness,” says Dr Murray. A round of 18 holes involves walking for up to four miles, which is why it’s better to walk rather than drive a golf cart. The good news for the most avid players is that, to get the most benefit from playing golf, they should aim to play for two-and-a-half hours a week. For those who might still be on the fence, we suggest trying a day at a professional or leading amateur tournament. Not only will you get to watch how it’s done, you’re likely to clock up 11,500 steps in the process.


Golf aids conversation

Mr Ryan Curtis is a keen golfer and the founder of The Club Talks, a project that partners with the mental health charity CALM to boost mental health and offer mental health first aid training to members of British golf clubs. “Golf really lends itself to the sort of conversations men need to have around mental health,” he says. “There is a natural flow to golf where you hit your shot, find your ball and have a bit of time to talk and think as you walk. Golf is also a lot more accessible than many people might think.”


Playing well is good for your health – just not too well

But spare a thought for the some of the world’s very best golfers. Competing for vast sums of prize money on the finest golf courses across the globe might sound great, but it comes with its own pressures.“Pro golfers are spending more time on the road, which leads to a range of stresses and insecurities that can impact negatively on their mental health and wellbeing,” warns Dr John Fry of University Centre Myerscough.


You can look good doing it

We recommend that you enjoy the walk, the company and the competitive focus, but we also recognise that you want to look and feel your best while doing so. The Mr P. golf collection is designed to be worn on and off the course, and to look as stylish in the members’ bar as it does in the pub or at dinner with friends. So, whether you’re standing over a tricky three-foot putt or supping on that post-round pint, you can feel good about wearing pieces from the Mr P. golf collection because in doing so you have supported MR PORTER Health In Mind.