Golf’s Hidden Workout: Calorie Burn on the Golf Course

two golfers walking carry golf bags

People generally don’t think of golf as a strenuous activity, but it can be a rather intense exercise. So, how many calories do you burn playing golf?

It’s a valid question with different answers, depending on whether you walk or ride. But golf burns calories no matter how you play it.

Getting out for a game is an excellent way to keep fit. Experts say that a round of golf is better for you than the most rigorous 30-minute gym workout.

We can’t know the exact amount of calories you burn playing golf. But this article will give you approximate figures for average people, and they might surprise you.

How Many Calories Does a Round of Golf Burn?

The number of calories burned while playing golf depends on various factors such as the individual’s weight, the duration of the game, and whether they walk or use a golf cart.

On average, a 180-pound person walking the course and carrying their bag can burn around 1,200 to 1,800 calories during an 18-hole round of golf, which typically lasts 4-5 hours. However, if the person uses a golf cart, the number of calories burned can be significantly lower, ranging from 700 to 900 calories.

Those who play 18 holes on a full-length golf course can walk about four or five miles. And you’ll walk up hills and over different terrain, which can affect the calories you burn.

Also, you’re swinging the club throughout the round. That adds to the number of calories you burn – those who hit more shots can burn more calories (good for your fitness but not your scorecard).

The way you play golf also affects the calories you burn. Carrying your clubs, using a pushcart, walking with a caddie, and riding a cart result in you burning a varying number of calories.

Walking and Carrying

You burn the most calories while walking and carrying your golf clubs. That’s likely no surprise because it offers the most exercise.

You’ll walk around four or five miles over hills with about a 30-pound golf bag on your back. That’s a good workout on its own, but adding each swing to that soon adds up to more.

Playing 18 holes of golf while carrying your bag burns approximately 1,200 – 1,800 calories, as reported in a study cited in the New York Times.

Walking and Pushing

golfer pushing a pushcart with golf clubs

Surprisingly, you burn a similar number of calories while walking and pushing a cart as you do carrying your clubs. Carrying a golf bag burns a little more, but the difference isn’t much.

That’s good news for those who use a pushcart. You can still burn plenty of calories and get excellent exercise during a round of golf.

Playing 18 holes while using a pushcart burns around 1,100 – 1,700 calories.

Walking with a Caddie

Golfer and caddy walking up a fairway

You don’t need to worry about carrying your clubs when walking with a caddie. You just walk the course and hit your shots.

But this is still a great form of exercise and will help you burn calories. Harvard Medical School estimates that golfers only walking the course (without carrying a bag) burn between 1,000 – 1,300 calories for 18 holes.

Riding a Cart

You burn the least amount of calories riding a cart. It makes sense because you’re sitting for a good chunk of the round.

But you still need to walk to the greens and tee boxes and must swing your clubs. So, riding a cart for 18 holes of golf still burns calories.

You can expect to burn around 700-900 calories while riding a cart and playing golf. That’s still pretty good exercise, considering the cart does most of the leg work.

And golf carts have some benefits for the overall game. These are two major ones:

  1. Carts are good for golf because they help golf courses generate more revenue. Clubs can get more players on the course and get them around faster with carts. That means they can make more money, which is good overall for the sport.
  2. Golf carts allow players who can’t walk the course to still play the game. Many elderly golfers can’t walk for a full 18 holes, but golf carts make the game inclusive for them.

Factors Affecting the Calories You Burn Playing Golf

Some factors affect the number of calories you burn while playing golf. Your weight, the weight of your golf bag, the topography of the course, and the time playing can impact your calorie burn.

Your Weight

The number of calories you can expect to burn during a round of golf depends on your weight. Lighter golfers will burn fewer calories than heavier golfers.

For instance, a golfer weighing 130 pounds might burn 1200 calories carrying their clubs for 18 holes. But a golfer weighing 190 pounds can burn 1800 calories for the same activity.

Golfers weighing less than 130 pounds will burn fewer calories for the same activity. Those weighing more than 190 pounds will burn more calories.

Golf Bag Weight

The weight of your golf bag affects the number of calories you burn during a round of golf. Golf bags weigh about 30 pounds on average.

You’ll burn fewer calories if it weighs less than this. It takes less energy to carry a lighter bag, resulting in you burning fewer calories.

Heavier bags take more energy to carry. So, you burn more calories when your golf bag weighs more.

Topography of the Course

golf course topography fairway bunkers

The number of calories you burn also depends on the topography of the course. It generally matters more when you’re walking the course, but it can also affect your calorie burn when you ride a cart. Some courses have elevated greens and tee boxes, which impact you even if you ride a cart.

You will burn more calories playing a hilly course compared to a flat course. Walking up and down hills takes more energy than moving along flat fairways.

The elevation of the course will also affect the number of calories you burn. You’ll burn more on golf courses at a higher altitude.

Time Playing

Your time playing on the course affects the number of calories you burn. The longer you’re out there, the more calories you’ll burn.

Our figures give you the approximate calories burned for a four-hour round of golf. But sometimes 18 holes can take around five hours.

In that case, you can expect to burn more calories. So, you can expect to burn more calories if your games usually take around five hours.


Can playing golf help me lose weight and improve my fitness?

Yes, playing golf can contribute to weight loss and improved fitness, especially when walking the course and carrying your bag. Golf engages various muscle groups and provides a low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise, promoting overall health and fitness.

What other factors influence the number of calories burned during a round of golf?

Factors affecting calorie burn during golf include the individual’s weight, walking speed, golf course terrain (hilly vs. flat), weather conditions, the use of a golf cart, carrying or pulling the golf bag, and the duration of the game.

How does the intensity of my golf swing impact my calorie burn?

A more intense and forceful golf swing can lead to a slightly higher calorie burn due to increased muscle engagement and energy expenditure. However, the overall impact on calorie burn is likely minimal compared to factors like walking the course and carrying your bag.

How does golf compare to other sports in terms of calorie expenditure?

While golf can be a good form of low-impact exercise, it generally burns fewer calories than more intense sports like running, swimming, or cycling. However, walking the course and carrying your bag can increase the calorie burn and make golf a more effective workout.

How can I track the number of calories burned during a round of golf?

You can use a fitness tracker or smartphone app that incorporates GPS and other sensors to estimate calorie burn during a round of golf. These tools often factor in elements like walking distance, heart rate, and individual characteristics (e.g., weight, age, and gender) to provide a more accurate estimate of calories burned.


Playing golf is an excellent way to burn calories. You can keep fit while playing the game you love. It’s a win-win!

The number of calories you burn depends on whether you walk or ride. Also, carrying your bag, pushing it, or getting a caddie to carry it affects the calories you burn.

The other factors mentioned in this article also impact your calorie burn during a round of golf. But now that you know approximately how calories you burn playing golf, you can see how it can keep you fit.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author

Joe Morelli

Joe Morelli is the founder of TopRankGolf, a passionate golfer with decades of experience playing this amazing sport. He's dedicated to helping golfers learn, improve and enjoy the game of golf.