Do we lose the health benefits of golf if we use golf trolleys?

By: November 8, 2023

I always find myself in a bit of a pickle trying to decide whether I should rent a golf trolley, a golf cart, or carry my equipment on my back.

The golf physiotherapist Andrew Caldwell found in 2015 that

  • Some golfers who choose to carry their clubs could be at a higher risk of certain musculoskeletal injuries and impaired golf performance.
  • Significant reduction in energy expenditure and heart rate amongst golfers using electric trolleys over those who carried. This reduced metabolic demand of not carrying could help them to perform at their peak level for a longer period of time.

I have come across numerous studies on this topic in recent years. In my opinion, walking during the game does not put us at a disadvantage.

Personally, I did not feel that carrying my equipment would result in a worse outcome. However, this may also be due to the lightweight Wilson Golf EXO II Stand golf bag (2.3kg) that I use.

Golf trolley health benefits

Last March, a study on the use of golf trolleys was published in the European Journal of Sport Science.

The study, led by Graeme Close, Professor of Human Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University, focused on 16 elite college golfers using three different modes of transporting their clubs around the course: carrying, using a push cart, and using a Stewart Golf Q Follow electric caddie.

The study was centered around comparing the Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of all 3 modes of transport, with findings showing there were no meaningful differences in calories burned/TEE during a round for all three modes. 

This study claims:

  • We report that the activity energy expenditure (AEE) for a round of golf was 3.4, 3.6, and 3.2 kcal.min−1 for the bag carrying, manual trolley, and electric trolley conditions, respectively.
  • The mode of transporting the golf clubs had no meaningful differences in AEE, although perceived exertion and maximum HR were lowest when using the electric trolley.
  • Golf may be considered an effective intervention to increase step count and improve physical activity levels across the general population regardless of the transportation methods of clubs.

However, Close found significant differences when analyzing Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), which, in simple terms, measures how a person feels as opposed to their actual physical response. [Me: This metric seems subjective.]

Carrying the bag had the highest RPE, meaning golfers felt like they were working much harder and burning more calories, even though they weren’t.

Stewart Golf golf trolley

The Stewart Q Follow electric caddie gave the lowest RPE and was also the only mode of transportation that participants found “very easy” when asked to rate the perceived level of exercise for each round.

The study also found that carrying produced the highest overall heart rate and heart rate fluctuation, a factor that could adversely affect match performance: Lining up a crucial putt with an increased heart rate is not an ideal scenario for most golfers.

I’m sorry to say that I have never encountered such a situation. I feel stressed or discomfort when people are not nice around me during the game.

What experiences do you have with golf trolleys? Share your experience with us in the comments!