It might seem silly to put golf and danger in the same sentence, but injuries can and do happen. Golf balls and golf clubs are very hard objects that can cause considerable damage if they strike you, and golfers need to be aware of the dangers posed by everything from lightning to repetitive stress injuries.
To learn how to stay safe on the golf course, follow these tips.
As sports go, golf is pretty safe, but there's always potential for injury. The golf swing puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your back and your joints, particularly if you are prone to swinging too hard or your technique isn't the best. Back pain, elbow tendonitis, and pain in the shoulders, hands, and wrists are all common golf injuries.
Less common but more serious injuries can happen if someone gets hit by a golf ball or club. Though it's extremely rare, people have actually died from being hit by golf balls. And then there are golf-cart mishaps: Golfers have been known to get seriously injured when golf carts are driven in a hazardous manner or if they dangle their feet or hands out of a cart while it's moving.
Fortunately, most traumatic injuries can be avoided by using common sense and following the rules.
Always warm up by taking a light walk, jogging, or doing jumping jacks before you play golf. Do trunk twists and other stretches to help loosen up your back, and be sure to stretch your shoulders, arms, elbows, and wrists. Take a few easy practice swings, gradually increasing your range of motion.
When practicing your swing at the driving range, start with wedges and short irons that call for a shorter swing. Gradually work up to long irons and woods that require a full swing. This not only will help your golf game, it will also go a long way toward preventing injuries.
If you will be playing on a sunny day, use plenty of sunscreen on any exposed skin, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your eyes and protect your face. A typical round of golf takes more than 4 hours to complete. You will be out in the sun the entire time, especially if you walk the course instead of riding in a cart. Sunburns are no fun, and neither is dehydration, another problem you might encounter on hot days. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your round.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep track of the people around you. It should be easy to know the locations of the players in your group, which will generally number four or less. But you need to also take note of where other groups are located.
Any time you have a golf club in your hands and are preparing to swing, make sure everyone else is a safe distance away. Never swing a club if someone else is near you, whether you're taking a practice swing or hitting the ball.
When other players in your group are swinging clubs, don't assume that they are watching out for you. Be proactive and give them a wide berth so that you don't run the risk of being struck by a club. And never stand in a place where you could be hit by a ball when another golfer in your group is playing.
When the time comes to hit the ball, be sure there are no golfers ahead of you who might be in range of your shot. This includes golfers to the right and left who might be in danger if you slice or hook the ball onto an adjacent hole. Wait until you're sure other golfers are out of the way before you hit.
Sometimes, despite all your precautions, you will hit a ball in the direction of other golfers. It's possible a golfer was hidden by trees or a hill and you didn't see them until after you've hit the ball. In cases like this, yell out "Fore!" as loudly as you can. This will let other golfers know that a ball is headed their way and they should take cover.
If, while you are playing, you hear someone yell "Fore!" don't turn your head to look for the ball. Instead, seek cover behind a tree or a golf cart. If that's not possible, cover your head and face with your arms.
Lightning can be a big hazard on the golf course. Because you're exposed and carrying metal clubs, your risk of getting struck is greater than normal. Check the weather before you head out to the course, and never try to play during a thunderstorm.
Most golf courses these days will sound an alarm if lightning is spotted in the area. If you hear an alarm or see lightning yourself, head for the clubhouse right away. If you can't get to the clubhouse, don't seek cover under trees, which attract lightning. Instead, seek out a designated lightning shelter or bathroom. Be sure the structure you choose has walls, as open-walled structures will not protect you from a lightning strike.
If no shelter is available, drop your clubs and move away from them and your cart. Stay away from trees and water, seek out a low-lying area, and keep a safe distance from other members of your group to make yourselves smaller targets.
Golf carts should only be driven by licensed drivers or if an adult is present. If you are going to drive a cart, read the directions and safety rules posted on the cart. It's not difficult, but carts can be dangerous if they aren't driven properly.
As much as possible, stay on cart paths, and never try to go off-roading across bumpy terrain. Drive straight up and down hills, and take it slow while going downhill or around turns. Look out for other carts where cart paths intersect, and never hang your feet, legs, arms, or hands out of a cart while it is in motion.
Golf shoes will give you much better traction than sneakers and help you avoid slipping while you swing. Get a pair of shoes with plastic spikes, as most courses will not allow metal spikes.
Common sense and a little forethought can go a long way toward keeping you injury-free on the golf course. Just use your head, and chances are you'll golf for years to come without having to worry about getting hurt.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|National Youth Sports Safety Foundation This organization offers a newsletter with helpful safety tips and facts about sports injury prevention.|
|American Sports Medicine Institute The mission of ASMI is to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education.|
|Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.|
|Why Exercise Is Wise Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help you to feel better emotionally. Find out why.|
|Choosing the Right Sport for You If you're having trouble choosing a sport, this article can help!|
|Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.|
|Handling Sports Pressure and Competition Winning is all that matters when you play sports, right? Not when that means you can't even enjoy the game. Read about how to handle sports pressure and competition.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.