What golf can learn from Parkrun's success

Growing Golf
Runners at ParkRun event

On an October morning in 2004, 14 people met in Bushy Park, London, for the first Parkrun event.

Today, almost two million active runners across 6,000 clubs worldwide make up what the BBC has called “a global phenomenon”.

Parkrun’s 5km timed runs are organised in pleasant parkland settings all around the world every single week. The events are free, safe, open to everyone, and incredibly popular.

In 2018, Staffordshire University in the UK conducted a study involving “parkrunners” who identified as having experienced mental health difficulties.

Each participant in the study reported that Parkrun had been beneficial to their mental health, and the report demonstrated that Parkrun increases confidence, it helps to reduce isolation, depression, anxiety and stress, and it gives participants space to think.

"The sense of community, friendship and camaraderie was more important to participants than physical exercise, suggesting that initiatives emphasising a sense of community and support may be beneficial to mental health and wellbeing.”

Paul Morris, Researcher at Staffordshire University

The powerful benefits of being outdoors, being active, and being part of a community activity, which are so clearly demonstrated in this study, are also very significant for the golf industry.

Taking place in beautiful natural settings, providing a community to join, delivering a great way of keeping active and fit, and providing a sense of accomplishment to those involved ­– all of these factors are mirrored closely in golf, and create a powerful message for the industry to take to potential golfers.

The benefits of exercise on mental health have long been acknowledged. However, this new research supports other studies which demonstrate that exercising in natural environments, combined with opportunities to socialise and join a community, adds even greater value to that activity in terms of mental wellness.

This marks a clear and powerful opportunity for the golf industry: to showcase the game’s many mental and physical health benefits – not only to those facing severe mental health difficulties, but to everyone who is invested in creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle.