This World Mental Health Day we hear from the Afriyea Golf Academy about how golf benefits the mental health of children

As the world evolves, people and communities are experiencing new pressures that result from generational demands, which have escalated issues of mental health. Sports have long been recognised as a therapy due to their ability to socialise, provide exercise, and require focused attention.

Golf, in particular, is believed to make a significant difference in addressing mental health concerns. In this article, we will explore the health benefits of golf, specifically focusing on junior golf and the exceptional growth of Afriyea Golf Academy in Uganda as a solution.

Regular physical activity

Engaging in regular physical activity has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health, as it releases endorphins, our brain's natural mood-boosting chemicals. Golf, as a low-impact sport, provides an excellent avenue for junior players to participate in physical activity. Walking the golf course, swinging the club, and carrying their own bags all contribute to increased physical fitness. The release of endorphins during golf can help alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression among junior golfers.

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Golf offers a unique opportunity for junior players to escape the pressures and demands of everyday life, allowing them to unwind and de-stress. The serene environment, surrounded by the beauty of nature, provides a calming effect, assisting in relaxation and reducing stress levels. The focused concentration required during each shot also helps clear the mind, promoting mindfulness and reducing anxious thoughts.

Social interaction and connection

Participating in sports brings individuals together, fostering social interaction and connection. In junior golf, young players have the opportunity to meet and engage with fellow golfers, coaches, and mentors, forming friendships and support networks. The sense of belongingness and camaraderie that comes from being part of a golf community can have significant positive impacts on mental well-being. Junior golfers can learn valuable social skills, including communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship, which contribute to their overall personal development.

Golf is a game that requires patience, dedication, and the ability to set and achieve goals. Junior golfers can learn the importance of setting realistic and achievable targets, both on and off the golf course. The process of setting goals and working towards them not only enhances focus and discipline but also provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment. As junior golfers achieve their goals, it boosts their self-esteem and self-confidence, positively impacting their mental well-being.

Mental resilience

The game of golf is filled with challenges, and how players handle these challenges can significantly impact their mental resilience. Junior golfers learn to face adversity and cope with setbacks during their golfing journey, developing resilience and problem-solving skills. Overcoming obstacles on the golf course builds mental toughness, perseverance, and the ability to handle stress, which can be transferred to various aspects of their lives, leading to improved mental health.

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"Using golf to address societal problems is critical, especially in the current era where young people are severely pressurized by high demands that range from poverty to school needs, discrimination of the juniors on the course, gender discrimination or marginalization and pressure to achieve so much in short-term goals. Teaching children in the academy about mental health is very important for them," said Isaiah Mwesige, CEO of AFRIYEA Golf Academy.

"By recognising the mental health benefits of golf and promoting its inclusion in mental health initiatives, we can harness the power of the sport to positively impact the lives of young individuals. The growth of junior golf programs like Afriyea Golf Academy serves as an inspiring example of the positive impact the game can have on mental well-being for future generations.”

Going beyond golf

Dr Andrew Murray, University of Edinburgh, whose PhD and studies focus on golf and health added “Regular physical activity is one of the best presents we can give our children and ourselves. It can help produce better results and school or at work, improves mental health and well-being and can even increase length of life. Golf can provide these benefits, and has the additional benefit of being outside in nature, and a good way of building social connections which is also incredibly important for mental well-being.

It is great to see the work of the likes of the AFRIYEA Golf Academy, and Golf It, in promoting opportunities for golf and other physical activities for all, while also supporting improved mental health”

Olive Katusiime, a Health Mental Activist added “It's essential to prioritize mental wellbeing and encourage open conversations about it. Individuals must quit being people pleasers, set achievable goals to avoid internal mental health strain or feelings of being an underachiever. People must also associate with positive peers. Collectively, the world can break down the stigma and create a supportive environment.”

Find out more about World Mental Health Day here.