AS a woman of 70 years plus I have spent the past few years grieving over the loss of my life partner and my elderly mother within 18 months of each other, and wondering what I can do for the next 20 years.
How could I make new friends and keep physically and mentally fit now that my professional career and my caring/family roles have altered?
Although I have attended yoga classes twice a week for the past six years and have a close family, I was feeling socially isolated from the broader community spending many hours every day alone with increasingly negative thoughts.
Health professionals recommended walking and I did this every day for years.
But walking is generally a solitary activity, and in Fremantle it can be a hazardous occupation avoiding broken footpaths, jumping out of the way of cyclists who think the footpath is a cycle path and don’t use their bell, and ducking out of the way of people looking at screens or wearing earphones.
A year ago I rediscovered golf; an activity that I had given up more than 30 years ago due to lack of time.
I now had time to spend outdoors in the “green belt” provided by golf courses. This decision has changed my life.
After refresher lessons at Fremantle Public Golf Course, I joined a group of 30 or so women playing golf a couple of times a week at the course.
Some are retired, some working, others caring for family members or their partners. Several, like myself are widows.
As a group they inspire by offering friendship, sharing experiences and giving support to each other.
My own experiences in taking up golf in later life are reflected in the findings of a Community Impact Study of Golf 2017, commissioned by the Australian Golf Industry Council.
The study sought to quantify the social, economic, environmental and other benefits golf brings to a community. It found that golf attracts many people from the very young to the ‚“elderly” in the community.
Golf is a sport for life, providing regular cross-generational interactions across the lifespan; this is evident during school holidays when grandparents, parents and children can be seen playing together.
The study also found that older golfers form friendships extending beyond their regular game of golf.
This enables players to meet and play with others they may not meet in their everyday life.
The golf course provides a safe outdoor environment and courses are “green belts” in increasingly dense areas.
From the outset golf teaches appropriate behaviour, respect and golf etiquette as everyone is sharing community space.
It provides physical health benefits associated with walking in the open air, and the socialisation that happens when walking from three to seven kilometres for nine or 18 holes in small groups.
Perhaps most importantly the study found that it provides mental health benefits.
Quite apart from the mental gymnastics of learning new scoring methods and golfing techniques, the study found the golf group or club provides invaluable social and emotional support to an increasing number of older women in a safe outdoor environment.
It found that golf also provides an economic benefit to the community and individuals through employment of staff at the course and golf shop, and in the bar/cafe as players socialise after a game.
The driving range and putting and chipping greens provide further income and a place to practice at a reasonable price in a safe outdoor environment.
As a group we often adjourn to other coffee shops/cafes to socialise after a game, as the current clubhouse isn’t a comfortable venue particularly when the weather is bleak.
We also organise social events utilising other local venues. In doing this we share the economic benefits with other businesses in the vicinity.
The staff at the Fremantle public course are always welcoming; the younger ones caring and polite and always respectful.
Course manager Andrew and professional, Clint are great role models for the younger staff and players showing consideration and offering assistance to older players when needed.
There are at least three women’s groups that play regularly during the week at Fremantle.
It appear that they are now faced with making alternative arrangements for the 2019 golfing season due to the widening of Leach Highway to accommodate truck and traffic flow to Fremantle.
This means the course will in all likelihood not be available for part of the 2019 golf season.
In the group I joined the women are determined their club will not lose members during this period of disruption and have begun making enquiries about playing elsewhere in 2019.
Many of the group are active in playing at other public golf course’s clubs invitation and charity days, and want to participate in playing WA golf league pennants and championship golf.
To do this they must maintain a GolfLink handicap to qualify and this requires the submission of scorecards on a regular basis.
Sadly, Fremantle council has not consulted or briefed the women who play during the week regarding the imminent changes or to ask the extent of the impact on the players.
A simple gesture of recognition from the council, acknowledging the impact of proposed changes on our group would go a long way to making us feel less invisible in the community.
by PATRICIA WYNNE
• Golf in Australia contributes $3.614 billion annually to the community
• Golf tourism generates $477 million per year through day and overnight visitation, food and beverage spending, accommodation, travel, shopping etc
• Golf’s physical health benefits contribute $126.6 million per year because of the prevention of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer
• Golf teaches valuable life lessons and principles such as respect, honesty, etiquette and self-discipline
• Golf provides a foundation to build a strong and connected community
• Participation in golf provides regular and cross-generational social interaction across the life span
• The game of golf and golf courses provide a strong connection to the outdoors and natural environment
• A lifelong contribution to reducing the healthcare burden on society through the prevention of disease
• On average, Australian golfers have a life satisfaction score of 7.4, compared to the Australian population at 7.3 and the average of OECD countries at 6.6.
• On average, Australian golfers’ scores for social capital are eight percentage points higher than Australian sports participants, and 16 higher than non-sport participants
• Australian golfers have a higher self-assessed health status (59 per cent) than both general sport participants (57 per cent) and non-sport participants (40 per cent)
* Taken from the Community Impact Study of Golf 2017.