Nowhere does the phrase ‘age is just a number’ resonate more loudly than on the golf courses of Surrey.
For that’s where a group of sprightly octogenarians are not only still enjoying the game – but are also helping academics at the University of Southampton study the impact of golf on the strength and balance of the over 80s age group.
Peter Rold and his friends at Roehampton Golf Club will readily admit that they are hardly in the first flush of youth. Yet, the digits on their birth certificates do not represent a sporting sell-by-date.
Far from it. In fact, it makes them even more determined to squeeze the most out of life.
Two years ago, Peter decided to see if there was any appetite for over 80s matches between clubs.
To his surprise and delight, he found that there was.
He hoped 2020 would be the season when clubs such as his own, Burhill, Camberley Heath and Royal Mid Surrey among others would get together for regular events.
However, while the spectre of Covid-19 put paid to grand plans, it did not derail them entirely.
Last month, Peter organised for a group of 50 golfers – all aged over 80 – to enjoy a Covid-secure round of golf at The Richmond Golf Club (main picture) in perfectly safe surroundings spurred on by the element of friendly competition.
His story is an example of why golf is arguably the greatest game in the world – accessible to everyone, no matter their age, no matter their ability.
And it’s why Professor Maria Stokes and her team are so keen to make a study of Peter’s group and publish a quantative analysis on the impact of golf on the over 80s.
“I’m to blame for all of this,” admitted Peter with a laugh.
“It dawned on me last year that there were no matches for the over 80s so I decided to try and get it off the ground.
“In 2019 we played nine over 80s matches against local clubs and I’m proud to say they were very successful.
“Obviously, Covid had an impact on the events this year and split opinion.
“Some golfers were happy still to play with the safety precautions in place and other chose not to which we can all accept.
“But we had a recent event at Richmond and it was a huge success.
“We had 50 players, all over 80 years of age and from within a very short radius of Richmond, taking part.
“We turned up just ahead of our appointed tee times, changed our shoes in the car park, played in accordance with the new rules, dined in our small groups and, even though there was no presentation, we headed for home after a good day out.
“It was perfectly feasible for us to enjoy the day within the regulations.
“A lot of the day is the social interaction and a chance to enjoy the physical exercise in the fresh air, but there is still a competitive element for those that want it.
“Only seven of the 50 golfers used a buggy – single use only of course!
“We had two over 90s playing and neither of them used a buggy!
“Hopefully, this is something we can look to continue.”
Peter’s group caught the attention of the scientists at Southampton and will become the focus of their next study.
Professor Stokes – who specialises in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation in the School of Health Sciences – has recently helped complete a study into the benefits of golf for players in the age bracket 65-79.
The ‘Strength and Balance in Older Golfers’ project was supported and promoted by The R&A. You can read the fascinating findings here.
Peter, 84 years young, added: “Myself and many others are happy to help. We know the good playing the game does us and we’d like to help pass that on to others who may not have thought of these benefits before now.
“I was a squash player as a younger man, but now get my exercise and enjoyment from playing golf.
“It’s a great game and we all hope that circumstances in 2021 allows us to play even more of our events.”
Professor Stokes and her team will link up with Peter’s group once Covid-19 restrictions are eased, but also need help from more sedentary members of the over 80s community to progress their study.
If you, or anyone you know, would be willing to help in the project by providing the counter-balance to Peter’s active group of over 80s, then Professor Stokes and her team would love to hear from you.
Contact Professor Stokes by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photograph credit: The Richmond Golf Club