More than just a weekend pastime, golf can be the driving force in your fitness routine.
Big Cedar Lodge Mountain Top Course
Mountain Top Course at Big Cedar
| Credit: Courtesy of Big Cedar Lodge

Consider this: On an 18-hole golf course, you'll log 5 to 6 miles of walking. "Do this a few times a week and you have a great fitness foundation," says Andy Fish, director of instruction at Forged Golf and Fitness in Mequon, Wisconsin. Even if you ride a cart, golf hones balance, coordination and mental focus—plus it's outside and socially distanced.

Three-quarters of the country's golf courses are open to the public, and initiatives from PGA, LPGA and others are helping to lower the cost of entry and raise inclusivity. If you're new to golf and nervous you'll look clueless on the green, don't be. Buy used clubs (start with a 3-wood, putter, wedge and a few irons). Then book a lesson, ideally with a PGA pro, via "Most instructors will be able to help a beginner, but the connection should be there," says Fish, who suggests a trial lesson first. "Beginners need to find fun in golf."

Three to try

THE PRAIRIE CLUB With no set tee boxes marking where golfers of different skill levels should tee off, the 10-hole Horse Course at The Prairie Club in Valentine, Nebraska, is about enjoyment over eagles.

BIG CEDAR LODGE Winding through dramatic rock formations near Branson, Missouri, the 13-hole Mountain Top Course (pictured above) is one of five at Big Cedar, which also opened Tiger Woods' first public links in fall 2020.

WILD ROCK GOLF CLUB Stay at Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells and get a discount at The Woods, a not-too-intimidating nine-hole short course that's well suited to kids or beginners looking to build their confidence.