“Dear, ‘The Golfing Doc’; is it better to carry my golf bag or to use a push cart? Or is it better to ride a golf cart? Thanks for the help. Hank C., Woodinville, WA”.
Should you carry your golf bag, use a push cart, or use a golf cart when you play a round of golf? The answer is; do whatever doesn’t hurt you. You should feel good when you play golf and not hurt yourself by carrying your bag. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, but the best choice is dependent on a combination of factors, including both your health and the conditions in which you are playing.
Using a golf cart is always the easiest and safest way to go. In hot and humid conditions, riding a golf cart helps you conserve energy. In hot weather, you can stay a little cooler riding a cart since you don’t have to walk from shot to shot and you don’t need to carry your golf bag. If you have a health condition that allows you to continue to play golf but does not allow you to elevate your heart rate too much, then using a cart is ideal. You can ride and rest between each shot and hole.
An added bonus to riding in a golf cart is that you can bring all the snacks and beverages you want. Also, for all the winter warriors, using a golf cart can keep you and your clubs dry. You can even outfit your cart with a portable heater to make the inside of the cart warm and toasty. It’s worth noting, however, that if golf is an exercise you are depending on for weight loss, riding a cart doesn’t burn very many calories.
If riding a golf cart isn’t in the cards; perhaps the next question from most golfers is whether they should carry their bag or use a push cart? My best recommendation for all golfers is to make the safe and healthy choice and use a push cart. It may not look “cool” to use a push cart. And, while it may seem like social suicide for younger golfers, using a push cart is easier on the body than carrying—no matter what your age.
If you have a neck, shoulder, or upper back problem, then carrying your golf bag is not ideal. The weight of the bag causes extra compression in these areas and can aggravate an underlying condition. Conditions commonly exacerbated by carrying your golf bag include: bulging discs, herniations, nerve and degenerative issues, and arthritis. If you hold stress in your shoulders, suffer from headaches, or experience tightness across your shoulders to start with, then the weight of the bag will also add to these issues.
If you do choose to carry your golf bag, make sure you use both shoulder straps. This helps to distribute the weight more evenly across your body. It also helps to keep your body in a more proper, upright, and straight position. Secondly, take care of your neck and shoulders by performing daily neck and shoulder exercises to keep these areas strong and flexible. Keep in mind that carrying is a great workout when you have to walk over 7 miles, but it does put quite a bit of stress on your body.
Here are some exercises demonstrated by golf professional Matt Palsenberg from the Tour Performance Lab. Hold these stretches for at least 30 seconds and repeat on both sides. If you feel pain or discomfort during any of these exercises, please discontinue immediately and consult your physician.
Dr. Harry Sese is the Clinical Director at the Washington Golf Performance Institute in Bellevue, WA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org