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Hey golfers, take a hike (and forgo golf cart)

Above: Marriott Golf is encouraging golfers to ditch the cart and walk, providing pushcarts for clubs in its “Walk for Health” program at 10 resorts.

Photo courtesy of the Bag Boy Company

Above: Marriott Golf is encouraging golfers to ditch the cart and walk, providing pushcarts for clubs in its “Walk for Health” program at 10 resorts.

By LOGAN D. MABE

Times Correspondent

Mark Twain once famously said, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." Imagine what he would have thought of the game once the motorized golf cart came along and all but killed the walking part.

Invented in Scotland (the birthplace of golf) in 1946 by a retired dentist, the motorized golf cart found a welcome home in U.S. clubs, which saw them as a way to speed up play and generate extra revenue.

Traditionalists (and the PGA tour) have always insisted on walking, even as many courses insisted on carts.

Now one major golf resort operator is encouraging guests to walk. In April, Marriott Golf announced its Walk for Health program at 10 of its resorts across the country. They'll give you a pushcart for your clubs, but the cart isn't motorized, so you even get a little bit of an upper-body workout.

"We're very excited to have it here," said Charles Sheppard, head golf professional at Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club in Orlando. "We've made a commitment to help people have a more healthy lifestyle. And we've had some good feedback from our guests."

Many of Marriott's resort golf courses have always allowed players to walk if they wanted to. But now they're actively pushing the program by bringing in the Bag Boy Company as the pushcart supplier.

The Walk for Health initiative addresses two issues: golfers' fitness and the ecological benefits. Fewer motorized carts mean less wear and tear on the course and a reduced carbon footprint associated with the facility.

But the big winner in the walking-vs.-cart debate is fitness.

According to a study by Neil Wolkodoff, director of the Rose Center for Health and Sports Sciences in Denver, walking a round of golf with a pushcart burns about 1,440 calories. A round played from a golf cart burns about 820 calories.

An interesting performance footnote to that study found that golfers using a pushcart logged better scores than when they rode in a cart.

"It gets back to the idea that walking gives you a certain amount of time to think about a shot, to rehearse, go through the stuff," Wolkodoff told PGATour.com in 2008. "Where in a golf cart, you're holding on, then boom, you've got to get up, go to the ball and make a decision pretty quickly."

U.S. Golf Association president David Fay has come out strong for walking, saying it is "the most enjoyable way to play golf and that the use of carts is detrimental to the game. This negative trend needs to be stopped now before it becomes accepted that riding in a cart is the way to play golf."

Then there are the aesthetic benefits. "Walking really bolsters the golfing experience," said Sheppard, 32, a pro at Grande Pines for 10 years. "You can commune with the wonders of Mother Nature rather than breezing by them in a cart."

That perk is especially rewarding at Grande Pines, a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, meaning it follows rigorous environmental guidelines to protect its natural areas and habitats.

The Walk for Health program is also available in Florida at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami; Grande Vista Resort in Orlando; and Marco Island Marriott Resort in Naples.

But you don't have to travel to find a course that welcomes walkers.

In Pinellas, Dunedin Golf Club, Mangrove Bay Golf Course, Cypress Links at Mangrove Bay, Twin Brooks Golf Club, Airco Golf Course and Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club are just a few that encourage walking. In Hillsborough, Babe Zaharias Golf Course, Rocky Point Golf Course, Rogers Park Golf Course and the University of South Florida golf course, "The Claw,'' all are walker-friendly.

Call or check the website of your favorite course for its walker policy. Added bonus: Some courses offer a discount to walkers.

Logan D. Mabe is a St. Petersburg teacher and writer. Contact him at ldmabe@aol.com.

WALKERS, TAKE IT SLOW AND KEEP IT COOL

I tried walking Marriott's Grande Pines Golf Club in Orlando and came away thoroughly pleased with the experience, with some caveats.

First, don't attempt a full 18-hole round in the dead of summer. When I teed off before 10 a.m. last weekend, the mercury was still rising and would reach 96 degrees by the midway point of the front nine. That's a "feels like" temperature of a barbecue grill in Hades.

Walking while golfing is best suited for cooler months, in fall, winter or early spring.

That said, you're welcome to walk nine holes and then switch over to a motorized cart.

A typical 18-hole golf course represents at least a 4-mile walk, so depending on how fit you are, you may want to start with just nine.

The Bag Boy Express Auto pushcart is a three-wheeler with a dashboard of amenities including an oversized beverage holder, scorecard and pencil rig, a protected "glove box" to stow personal belongings, an umbrella holder and a convenient parking brake.

Depending on the size of your golf bag and its weight distribution, the cart can be tippy at times, especially on slopes.

But the overall experience of walking a pretty course like Grande Pines overcomes any technical drawbacks. You hear more birds, you see spooked fish swirling in the lake that just ate your tee shot and you have the leisure to work out in your mind your next shot as you amble up the fairway.

Logan D. Mabe

Hey golfers, take a hike (and forgo golf cart) 06/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:48pm]
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