Trying to get in your recommended 10,000 steps a day? Stand to the side, because a walking golfer will blow right past.
My recent trip to Pinehurst, North Carolina, proved that point. Combined with walking around a resort, getting to the course, warming up on the range and generally hanging out before a tee time, I cruised past 10,000 steps before finishing the front nine each day. And on three of the five days I spent in the Sandhills, I went well north of 20,000 split across two courses.
I woefully admit, I am about 30 years late to the fitness craze. A recent diet has sparked a bit of interest, so I prepped for Pinehurst not on the range, but on Amazon, from which I ordered a Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness band for less than $100. After a year spent mostly in quarantine, it was time to get moving. Counting just makes it more fun.
Despite the length of my belt, I love walking golf courses. Most of my rounds played on the road as Golfweek’s Travel Editor – sometimes more than 100 a year – are played on foot. I’m not a militant anti-golf cart type at all, but I generally take a cart while on a road trip only if course conditions demand it or course operators ban walking – an anti-health attitude no course should adopt but that is frequently encountered by walking players, especially in my home state of Florida.
I had seen stories online about how many steps are required to get around 18 holes, most of them generally claiming a somewhat vague 10,000-plus steps. I wanted the specifics, and I got them in Pinehurst.
First on the agenda was Pinehurst No. 2, which despite its name ranks No. 1 in North Carolina on Golfweek’s Best Courses You Can Play list for public-access layouts. No. 2 has been home to three previous U.S. Opens with several more on its schedule, and it ranks No. 16 among all Classic Courses built in the United States before 1960. Having been built in an era before golf carts whisked players along the course, it was the perfect testing ground for my golf spikes and my Fitbit.
Waking up at the Carolina Inn at the resort on a Monday morning, I put in an early 900 steps walking to pre-dawn breakfast and generally getting ready to head to the course. I stepped just past 2,000 for the day while crossing the parking lot, checking into the pro shop, walking to the range, hitting about 30 practice balls, then strolling past the putting green and to No. 1 tee. And from there, I was off.
No. 2 is a hard golf course but an easy walk. Most of the tees are situated fairly close to the previous green, and there’s really only one spot where players must double back to a tee box – leaving No. 9 green, players must about-face and walk up a hill to start the back nine. It was proving to be a perfect test for counting steps without wasting any.
I played with two resort guests and spent a fair amount of time helping one of them search for balls, but nothing dramatic or slowing. And as I walked off No. 18 green next to the famous Payne Stewart statue, I clicked a screengrab of my Fitbit numbers.
I was shocked to see 19,231 steps to that point for the day. The Fitbit app also showed I had walked 8.93 miles and burned 3,740 calories. The step total, subtracting the 2,084 I had walked before the opening tee shot, meant I had walked 17,147 steps on Pinehurst No. 2. Never mind the closing bogey – where I got a little too aggressive with an 8-iron to a back pin and rolled my approach off the back of the green and nearly to the clubhouse – I was thrilled.
OK, I thought, No. 2 is a big, historic ballpark that hosts major championships. What would the step count show on another course built by the same designer, the legendary Donald Ross, only this one shorter and more intimate?
Two mornings later I played Mid Pines, another beautifully restored Ross course in nearby Southern Pines. It hasn’t been home to any U.S. Opens, and on the scorecard Mid Pines tops out at 6,732 yards compared to No. 2’s 7,588 yards.
Didn’t really matter … the steps kept adding up on a course that features quite a few more hills than No. 2.
Not counting the morning before the round, I put in 15,784 steps on Mid Pines, many of those uphill. After the round I went to take a peek at Southern Pines, another Ross course that is under restoration by architect Kyle Franz, and without even playing the course (walking around greens during putting adds a lot of steps) or even walking all 18 in a direct line, a midnight check of the Fitbit app showed I had walked 27,197 steps and 12.63 miles, burning 6,257 calories for the day.
The steps kept coming. I played eight courses in five days, walking five of them. I clocked 18,246 steps at Tobacco Road, which despite the appearance of hills proved to be entirely walkable. I clocked another 17,190 at Pine Needles playing alone, then 17,434 at Dormie Club playing with three other walkers.
On two days of the trip, I first walked 18 then rode another 18, one of those in a cart at Mid South, the other at Country Club of North Carolina – the rest of the group was riding, and after 18 on foot that morning, I acknowledge I jumped into the passenger seat of a cart with a smile on my face for my eighth and final round. Even when riding, I passed 9,000 steps for the rounds. Looking at full-day data when combing 18 on foot and another 18 in a cart, I passed 28,000 steps each day.
The things I go through in this job, playing all these golf courses. Cue the world’s smallest harp.
But the data doesn’t lie, and it’s great to know it’s easy to pass 16,000 steps in a day when preparing for and then walking 18. The most amazing part? I didn’t slow down anyone playing behind me. With comfortable shoes, my feet didn’t hurt (much!). And I had plenty left in the tank after each round to keep swinging.
In all, the Fitbit app shows that I walked 130,992 steps for the week in Pinehurst. That added up to 40.4 miles and more than 30,000 calories burned for a whole week, which included two long days in a rental car with limited mobility.
None of this is new to the fitness fanatics who have been tracking their health for years, but it does further prove that slinging a carry bag across your shoulders or strapping your clubs onto a push cart for 18 holes is a terrific form of steady, relatively stress-free exercise. And many players started walking courses last year as COVID-19 led to lock downs and social distancing – it was nearly impossible to buy a modern push cart last summer, as supplies dwindled and demand spiked – making the game on foot more attractive.
The data from my steps walked in five days at Pinehurst makes it look even better.