Scientists analysed findings from 5,000 studies looking at associations between golf and wellbeing and found regular playing may prevent chronic illness, improve mental health and increase life expectancy.
These benefits can largely be explained by the exercise associated with golf. The study found that players typically burned a minimum of 500 calories over 18 holes.
Additionally, golfers walking the full course could cover four to eight miles, while those using electric buggies typically chalked up four miles.
The researchers concluded that playing golf can improve the health of hearts, arteries and lungs, and has a positive effect on metabolism.
It could also help people suffering from chronic conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, bowel and breast cancer, and the effects of stroke.
They said the physical aspects of golf could also help reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia.
Lead scientist Dr Andrew Murray, from the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, told PA: “We know that the moderate physical activity that golf provides increases life expectancy, has mental health benefits, and can help prevent and treat more than 40 major chronic diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
“Evidence suggests golfers live longer than non-golfers, enjoying improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, wellness, self-esteem and self-worth.
“Given that the sport can be played by the very young to the very old, this demonstrates a wide variety of health benefits for people of all ages.”
The researchers also found that the physical benefits were likely to increase with age, and older players experienced improved balance and stamina.
The study is part of the Golf and Health Project, led by the World Golf Foundation, which will conduct further studies into the effects of golf on mental health, muscle strengthening and balance.
Padraig Harrington, a vice-captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup, winner of three major championships, and Golf and Health ambassador, said: “The Golf and Health Project is clearly taking an important step forward to shine a light on the benefits of our sport.
“I have seen how impactful golf can be on peoples’ well-being - now it’s time to get this message out there.”