The Walking Golfers Society has a mantra posted on its website: The Walking Golfers Society is dedicated to providing information about the many benefits of walking when you golf, which is how the game was intended to be played. If you are a passionate walking golfer then please join our growing Society and help us advocate for the enjoyment of golf as a walking game. Rob Rigg is the founder of the society and Ben Cowan is his first lieutenant. In an age of increasingly-poor health, Rigg and Cowan remind us of the game’s roots in the placing of one foot (not four tires) in front of the other, to advance the ball from tee to green. Rigg’s answers are in italics below, while Cowan answers in bold.

1. Give us your name and a bit of background on your relationship with golf.

Rob Rigg. I fell in love with golf as a kid visiting my mother’s family in Ireland where we would stay for 6 weeks over the summer. I caddied for my grandparents during their many tournaments and enjoyed hitchhiking into town to play 36 or ever 54 on many days during our visits. My enjoyment for spending time with friends and family on the course led me to establish TWGS in 2009.

Ben Cowan, I started playing golf at the age of 6 and was probably pretty much hooked at the start. My parents both played Golf which helped my passion for the game. I started caddying at the age of 12 and was able to save enough money to buy a car at the age of 16. I’m at a point in my life now, where I would like to give back to game, as much as it’s given to me.
2. Given your experience with the game, what are the basic tenets by which each golfer should play/conduct himself? 

Respect for the game and your fellow golfers is very much the foundation of golf. The ability to enjoy a friendly match with close friends or people that you just met on the first tee is very important, in my opinion, to getting the most out of your experience on the course.

Well I was fortunate in which to have been taught the golf swing by a true Gentlemen. I think that through observation and looking up to one’s elders a person should try and emulate those before them. Be a good steward of the course, have good manners, and realize no one is bigger then the game of golf.
3. You’re a leader in an organization called The Walking Golfers Society. How and why did this society come to be?

The idea for TWGS was to provide information to fellow golfers about the benefits of walking when you golf, along with some course reviews and walkability ratings to help golfers plan trips or find local courses that encourage or support walking with their layout and culture.

I’ll defer that one to Rob, since i wasn’t there in the beginning. 

4. Why should golfers walk? 

I believe that all golfers have a choice about how they want to enjoy the game. Golf was founded as a walking game and I believe that there is no finer way to spend time on a course because walking allows you to speak to every member of your foursome and absorb your surroundings from tee to fairway to green one step at a time. Walking also provides significantly higher fitness benefits to riding in a cart along with environmental benefits to the course and architecture. i.e.) If an architect does not have to create cart paths their ability to design a course that flows from tee to green is enhanced.

I believe a golfer should consider walking for many reasons. If we boil it down to a basic level we are most likely playing Golf in a park setting in the US and who takes a cart through a park? I believe that the round flows tremendously better by walking. Conversations are easier to have with others or one’s self. I also believe that walking is one of the best activities one can do in a day and is good for one’s overall health.
5. What keeps golfers from walking? Is it personal choices, industry related, or a bit of each? 

As a golfer who grew up caddying it has always been about enjoying the walk for me. I would assume that many other walking golfers were introduced to the game through caddying as well. Unless a course prohibits or regulates walking, it is a golfers choice regarding how they want to play. However, the importance of cart revenue to many courses and clubs has made it challenging for some golfers to walk which is unfortunate. The importance of having a golf course to many real estate developments which were built in the 90s led to the rise of “cart golf”.  I would imagine this led to many kids learning to enjoy the game with their families by driving around in carts as opposed to walking, if it was even permitted at their home track. I also believe that the USGA and PGA of America have failed to recognize the value of walking to the long term health and vitality of their consumers which is why there has been so little promotion of walking over the past 15 to 20 years. They see the short term benefits of annual cart revenues, shot gun starts, building courses on steep or challenging terrain etc. In contrast, by and large, golfers in GBI and Australia always walk when they play and there are very few carts around. It has led to very different golf cultures.

It’s a bit of both. If you think about it, there are many Golfers who have never even tried walking. It doesn’t help when courses just make that choice for you. I think that unfortunately culture is changing and we don’t have the same values. Private clubs push carts for revenue and public courses push them for pace of play and streamlining.
6. Let’s say I’m a lifelong cart rider. I want to walk, but I need some help, as I’m overweight, out of shape and weak in the legs. What can assist me?

Over the past five years I have received emails from many people who were out of shape and saw walking the course as an opportunity to improve their fitness. It’s really exciting and most of these golfers started slow and built their fitness slowly, from walking a couple of holes a round to finally walking eighteen or more. The easiest way to start walking, if you aren’t in great shape, is to walk a few holes a round while letting your playing partner drive the cart. Once you feel comfortable walking 9, or a shorter loop at your club if it is available, then I would encourage the aspiring walking golfer to use a pull or push cart to reduce stress on their back and legs versus carrying a bag. Taking a caddie, if one is available, is another option to make walking easier. A bunch of people have reached out to me and talked about how they have lost 10, 20 and even 30 lbs by becoming walking golfers – it’s awesome!

Well my mother has a friend who is in her mid 80’s, she is a little overweight and she walks the front 9 and then takes a cart on the back 9. The use of an electric or non electric Trolley/pushcart have enabled people 50+ to walk for decades. Set small goals such as trying to walk a 6 hole loop if your course has something of that nature. It would be nice if more pubic/private courses purchased a few trolley’s to rent to customers and golf shop’s brought them up during check in at the golf shop.


7. What do you say to someone who, presented with all the positives of walking, still refuses to do so? In other words, how do you preach to the anti-choir?

There are many options for golfers in the US to enjoy golf on foot or in a cart. If a golfer prefers to play by cart then I respect their decision to do so even if I do not understand it. I don’t see TWGS as an entity that preaches to cart golfers, we are a group that enjoys the walk and are happy to provide fellow golfers with information about the many benefits of doing so.

I don’t think you can preach to the anti-choir. Some people just don’t want to experience walking and are creatures of habit. I worry about the anti-choir effecting others choice to walk.

8. Tell us something of The Walking Golfers Society’s formal activities.

TWGS puts on several events each year. Ben has done a great job of organizing events in the Mid West and East Coast. Every year I aspire to find some time to do the same on the West Coast. In the past we have had some great events at places like Pasatiempo and Ballyneal, along with U of M, Orchard Park, Lookout Mountain and Mid-Pines.

The Walking Golfers Society has Walking Gathering across the country. It’s a way to get together with other like minded people. We attempt to showcase courses that still support walking and or have strong Walking cultures. In a sense a group of buddies who have their regular group, might have 2 of the 4 who like to walk, but instead ride to keep the group dynamic the same. We hope to be an outlet for those walkers who feel like they always ride due to appeasing their friends.9. What question haven’t we asked, that you wish someone would? Ask it and answer it, please. Thank you for your time today.

One interesting question about golf is “where does the game go from here”? I am not sure if anyone has a good answer right now. Certainly a vital element of any sport in ensuring that new people, especially kids, are being introduced to the game. That used to occur via caddie programs populated by kids in grade school and high school, which are few and far between these days. Many of us learned to appreciate golf while carrying a bag for someone else while wandering around a rather beautiful and relaxing setting for a few hours. We need to figure out a way to provide access to members of the younger generation who are interested in doing the same, because golf is competing with a lot of other activities and that is not going to change.
Well a question I ask myself is did we wait to long to start a society and how much impact can we have on Golf. I find it frustrating watching people under the age of 30 riding in carts in pleasant walking weather. If we can have 10% of cart riders try walking, would that be enough to swing the momentum towards more people walking. Most people do what the majority does and how do walking cultures form and stay intact? To this multiple open ended question, I don’t have the answer. Hopefully with articles like this one we can convince through voluntary means people to give walking a try. I think if 10% of cart riders tried walking that 1 out of 3 would switch to walking.