Can You Golf With Arthritis? | 7 Pain Saving Tips

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with arthritis, you might think that your days of playing golf are over and that you will need to finally hang up your golf clubs. Well think again, there are many ways that you can still play golf with arthritis.

So, can you golf with arthritis? If you follow the tips and advice in this article and implement the simple adjustments you can keep playing this amazing game even with arthritic joints. We will also show you how these tips could even help you to improve your scores on the golf course.

Can You Golf With Arthritis?

Yes, it is possible to play golf with arthritis. In fact some top-level professional golfers have been able to control the pain of arthritis for many years, and they even still win major golf tournaments.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis according to the Arthritis Society, and statistics show that up to 24% of Americans suffer from arthritis of some kind, that’s over 58 million people! So, if you’re one of those individuals you are not alone in suffering from this degenerative joint disease.

The most common type of arthritis pain is Osteoarthritis which is a degenerative disease, and Rheumatoid arthritis which is also known as inflammatory arthritis. Symptoms of these include back pain, achy hands, joint pain, and difficulty walking. Unfortunately for golfers, these are all of the main body parts associated with the range of motion in the golf swing.

We’ve studied the best ways to play golf pain-free and reduce strain on your body, read our top tips below and keep reading to the end to see which top professional golfers also play golf with arthritis pain.

A rheumatoid arthritis syndrome hand

7 Top tips for golfing with arthritis

1. Warm up properly

This first tip is the most important part of playing golf pain-free with arthritis. Even for golfers who don’t have joint pain, frequently completing a 20-minute warm-up can help improve your golf. Being able to have a full range of motion in the golf swing is proven to improve your golf game. However, especially for golfers with arthritis a warm-up can significantly reduce the amount of stiffness.

We would recommend simple stretches at the beginning of your round, exercises such as loosening up the arms and shoulders with some arm circles and helping the hip joints with trunk twists. Follow these up with some gentle practice swings with your golf club so your body can get used to the natural momentum before you hit your first tee shot.

A top tip is to ensure that you keep your body moving even after you have started playing golf. For example, if you are having to wait for the group in front to play then perform some gentle stretches in between your shots to keep your joints warm.

2. Take a ride in a cart

If you regularly play golf with arthritis you will likely suffer from joint pain in your knees and ankles, even if you’re only playing nine holes you will still experience stiffness. The walking motion involved puts a lot of pressure on these joints, especially if you carry your golf bag.

A top tip for reducing this is to ride in a golf cart. This will ensure that you can take the pressure off these joints and reduce strain on them in between riding to your next golf shot.

An expert tip is to ensure that even if you are riding in a cart you should try to keep your body moving. Where you are able, try to break up riding in a cart with occasionally walking to your next shot. This will help to keep a full range of motion in your body and prevent any symptoms of stiffness.

3. Consider adjusting your swing

We all want to drive the ball over 300 yards with a 200mph swing speed just like Bryson DeChambeau. However, if you suffer from arthritis and want to continue playing golf you might have to adjust your swing.

The classic swing puts a lot of pressure on the body, a full swing with follow-through causes a lot of stress on the joints. Even for a golfer without arthritis, repeated full swings cause the lumbar spine, arms, and shoulders to take a lot of wear and tear.

Our top tip if you want to continue golfing with arthritis is to consider shortening both your backswing and downswing.

Traditionally we are taught to complete a full backswing to finish with the club head in the one o’clock position. However, if you suffer from arthritic joints experts would encourage you to finish your backswing with the club head in the three o’clock position, doing this will produce less resistance and ease pain during your follow-through.

This could make a big difference and reduce strain on your body during the swing. This is something you will need to spend time on at the practice range before trying it out on the course.

Golfer playing on beautiful golf course

4. Wear the right shoes

Golfing with arthritis is possible but if you are playing 18 holes it is estimated that you will walk an average of 10,000 steps around the course. If you suffer from joint pain in your knees and ankles after a round we would encourage you to consider the shoes you wear. To reduce the pressure on these joints it is advised to wear golf shoes that have extra cushioning in the soles, and are designed to absorb shock and reduce vibrations. This will not only help you enjoy your golf more but also allow you to complete a full round with less joint pain.

5. Get a (better) grip for your club

The most used part of your body when playing golf is the grip, this is also the most important part of the golf swing as it is the only body part that is actually in contact with the club. Therefore if you get this wrong, or are unable to apply the correct grip pressure due to arthritic pain you will struggle when playing on the golf course.

If you suffer from arthritis pain you might find that your grip strength is not as strong as it used to be due to wrist and hand pain. A top tip to combat this is to use golf grips which are thicker and easier to grip. These are also called oversized grips and you can easily get these fitted by a local golf professional or club fitter. They make them thicker by applying extra grip tape under the grip.

These are perfect for golfing with arthritis as they are easier to grip and due to the larger size require less grip pressure to hold. This is not just used by golfers with arthritis in their hands, top PGA professionals also choose to use an oversize grip on their clubs. If it’s good enough for the World’s top golfers, it could also help you to improve your own golf game.

If you golf with arthritis pain you might also consider wearing specialist golf gloves. You could find that wearing the best golf gloves for arthritic hands, which are designed to ease hand pain, could be a great remedy if you have arthritis in your hands.

6. Know your limits

If you want to play golf with arthritis you will need to make sure that you listen to your body and ensure that you know your limits on the course. This might mean that on some days you can’t play a full round, if you experience stiffness you may have to consider stopping after nine holes. 

Alternatively, if you can’t use a ride-on cart, and can only use a wheeled cart you may want to play from the forward tees to reduce the walking distance.

Additionally, we would encourage you to regularly visit a physical therapist who can suggest ways to still enjoy golfing and what adjustments you can make to play pain-free. This might include wearing wrist braces, or other types of regular exercise that can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

7. Consider going graphite

Traditional steel golf clubs weigh approximately one pound each, even for a fully fit golfer swinging this weight over 100 times during a round can put a lot of additional strain on the joints. If you are a golfer suffering from a degenerative joint disease like osteoarthritis, we would strongly suggest that you consider using a graphite shaft in your golf club.

Making the change from steel shafts to graphite shafts can make a considerable difference to your golf game. If you choose graphite irons with perimeter weighted heads these can also make it easier to launch the ball with a slower swing, further reducing the pressure during your swing.

Graphite shafts are perfect for reducing and relieving pressure on the arms and shoulders during the golf swing. Not only are they lighter which helps with joint fatigue, but due to their design they also reduce vibrations when hitting the golf ball. Their ability to absorb shock at impact has allowed many golfers with arthritis to continue playing golf for much longer than they had originally thought possible.

Some 3-wood and 5-wood golf clubs in the golf bag

Should you push through arthritis pain?

Knowing your limits is important if you want to be able to continue playing golf even if you suffer from a degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis. You should always follow the guidance of your physical therapist and ensure you listen to your body.

Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus pushed through arthritic hip pain for years only causing more pain. In the Arthritis Society Nicklaus says how he eventually sought medical advice after feeling like he was having to play golf on one leg due to the pain. Arthritis has its good days and bad days, some days you will only be able to play on the practice range, whereas on other days you will be able to play with a full range of motion. To maximize your golf career ensure that you don’t push through arthritis pain.

FAQs

Does golf make arthritis worse?

If you listen to your body, follow our top tips, and are careful not to over-exert yourself on the course golf can help relieve the symptoms associated with arthritis. Regular exercise, along with a good warm-up can be a very good antidote to joint pain.

Do larger golf grips help with arthritis?

Larger golf grips allow golfers to hold the club whilst requiring less grip pressure. Due to their larger size, the hands do not need to grip the club so tightly. Therefore if you suffer from arthritis and have reduced grip strength these will be the perfect solution.

What golfer has arthritis?

Several professional golfers have suffered from arthritis pain over the years. Most notably, both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been diagnosed with arthritis. Woods who was initially diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2007 following a torn ACL injury was able to continue competing following this and even won the 2019 US Masters tournament.

Phil Mickelson, following joint pain in preparation for the 2010 US Open was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. This condition, according to Cory Calendine MD, causes patches of skin to grow too quickly over the joins.

Although incurable, through the use of strong medication, a good diet and lots of exercises Mickelson will be able to play golf for many years to come.

Final thoughts

Many adjustments can be made to allow you to play through arthritis pain, whether that is through a warm-up, adjusting your swing, changing to a softer lower-compression golf ball, or using graphite shafts in your irons.

Golf is an amazing game, one which can be played by golfers of all ages and abilities. Even golfers with serious disabilities can still get regular enjoyment through golf. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this article and have seen through our tips and advice on how you can continue to play one of your favorite activities with arthritis.

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