Safety Principles on the Golf Course

Safety principles on the golf course are critical to every golfer. When playing golf in most locations of the country it is vitally important that golfers have protection. What kind of protection? In this brief article we discuss SIX common and not so common occurrences that can effect us while we are on the golf course. They are serious (some could be potentially fatal while on the golf course) and should be thoroughly understood by anyone who intends on spending a considerable amount of time on the golf course either alone, or with friends, family, or golfing buddies.

Sun Protection and Skin Cancer – Sun burn is caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays damaging the human skin over a period of time. The stronger the sun’s rays the greater damage is done to the skin. Sun burns can occur in less than an hour and can be of differing degrees depending on the level and type of protection (sun cremes and sun blocks) that is used, the strength of the sun, wind conditions, and kind of clothing or sun shade protection (umbrellas or hats or light clothing used. Doctors say if a person has had five or more sunburns over his or her life, the odds of getting skin cancer have doubled. Even in the spring season golfers should take adequate care to protect their heads and faces, as well as other sun exposed body parts. Sun blocking creams with high SPF ratings (i.e. well over 20) should be amply applied on sunny days to protect golfers from developing pre cancerous skin cancer or exacerbating skin cancer, should it already exist or be developing. Additionally, golf visors or hats should be worn to keep the suns rays off your head, especially if you are bald or balding, and much of your face. Of all the things golfers should do as they leave the putting green before the start of their round these preparatory actions are probably one of the most important practices to be done regularly. What areas of the body should be protected from the sun? The lips, face, ears, forearms, elbows and wrists, calves and knees are all prime targets for skin cancer. Golfers, whether male or female should constantly be checking their skin for moles, actinic keratosis (pre cancer skin eruptions), dysplastic nevi (non-cancerous moles), and basal cell (common skin cancer) conditions which could show up as bumps under the skin.

Tick protection and Lyme Disease – Lyme disease is a tick-carried illness which caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called a spirochete. The disease has been found in most states and many foreign countries. In the United States it is now the most frequently reported disease carried by ticks. It is extremely common and prevalent in the northeast (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are prime examples) where significant numbers of cases occur each summer. Many cases also occur in Wisconsin and Minnesota. However, Thus far, Lyme disease has not been as common in the southern states. In North Carolina, less than 100 cases are found each year. Rocky Mountain spotted fever,another tick-carried disease, is still more common than Lyme disease in North Carolina.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of ticks on deer infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Perhaps the next most important protection procedure before starting the round, and this applies at any time of the season is to put adequate tick repellant on exposed parts of your body. Either cremes or sprays should be used. We would favor a spray as it can also be put it on your pants, socks and other clothing that might harbor ticks if you go into the woods. If a tick bites you and that tick has Lyme disease, failure to remove the tick quickly can lead to the disease which would require a long course of antibiotics. In order to protect yourself on the golf course from tick bites golfers should try to do the following practices before the round begins so follow safety principles on the golf course:

Avoid tick-infested areas, especially in May, June, and July,

Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily,

Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants,

Tape the area where pants and socks meet so that ticks cannot crawl under clothing,

Spray insect repellent containing DEET on clothes and on exposed skin other than the face, or treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact,

Wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt for added protection,

Walk in the center of trails, or in the fairway to avoid overhanging grass and brush,

During time outdoors, keep away from tall grass and dense woods. These are two favorite hangouts for ticks. Any time you spend in tall grass or deep woods – whether you are hiking, bicycling, golfing, camping, picnicking etc. – can expose you to ticks,

After being outdoors, inspect for ticks. Check places where ticks might be hard to spot, including your back, scalp, and genitals. Check your pet for ticks. If you find a tick, remove it promptly and carefully. Use tweezers to grasp the tick by its head. Try to remove the whole tick without crushing it. If possible, seal the tick in a plastic bag and take it along if you see your physician or vet. Otherwise flush the tick down the toilet, bury it or destroy it by hitting it with the edge of a sand iron or other club much like a hammer.

Wash your hands after handling ticks.

Snake Bite Protection – Particularly in certain regions of the country such as the West, Southwest, and South, bites from poisonous snakes can be very serious and potentially fatal occurrences if not quickly treated with the proper antidotes and by trained medical persons. It may seem foolish but it is probably worth your while to have some kind of means of reaching the local hospital or clinic, as well as the club house and pro shop in the event you are bitten by a snake. Obviously one can not have serum to counter act the effects of a snake bit because there are so many kinds, but it would be very wise to keep your cell phone available and charged or at least one or two people in your twosome, threesome, or foursome should have their phones in an active state and charged. No one should fool with snake bites. Actions and practices golfers should take to prevent themselves from being bitten from snakes include:

Watching where you put your feet when walking in the woods, rocky areas, or brooks or streams while looking for lost golf balls,

Being alert to snakes when off the fairway and even while in the fairway or sitting on a bench waiting to tee off,

Being extremely careful about waving your golf club in thick grass or overgrowth while looking for a lost ball. Thrashing about in the woods while waving your club to move leaves or help uncover a golf ball under heavy grass or wood may agitate a sleeping snake.

Heart Attack and Stroke – While heart attacks and strokes have a relatively low frequency of occurrence on the golf course golfers should be conscious of how to get medical aid quickly if they or a member of their golf group have chest pains or become unconscious with a probable stroke. In this regard golfers should have their cell phones charged during the round and be ready to call the pro shop, club house and the closest hospital in the event something happens. Having a cell phone with no battery power is BAD so check your phone at the start of the round. Also, the managements of all golf courses should consider or be required to have a defibrillator available to help someone who has had a heart attack. Actions golfers should take during the round to prevent stroke or heart attack include:

Know your own health condition as the round starts and certainly before you step out on the course,

Drink water during the round to prevent exhaustion and dehydration,

On especially hot days when the temperature and/or the humidity go over 90 degrees, golfers should take a towel or towels and keep them wet, and if possible, cold so they can put them around their necks or on their heads while walking the course,

Take an apple, banana, or some fruit, or a food bar or nuts to chew on during the round to keep your energy level reasonably high,

Be sure you have taken all prescription medications before the round starts such as blood pressure medications,

Do not start the round if you do not feel good for whatever reason such as feeling faint, having sweats, having a rapid pulse, and having a fever or headache.

Bee Stings and Allergic Reactions – I was once playing golf and my ball came to rest in the rough under a large maple tree which had some branches hanging down to about 7 or 8 feet above the ground. I was so intent on my next shot to the green that I never noticed the wasp nest that had been hanging from one of the branches hanging over the area of where my ball rested. On my follow through my club hit the nest and a number of wasps came out and chased me. Fortunately, and although I was stung four or five times I found refuge in a rest room on the adjacent hole. A close call but one that can happen to anyone. During the summer months wasps and hornets build these large nests that can hang from branches or be in a large bush and be within reach of golf clubs. Also, bees, wasps and hornets can build nests in the ground with only small holes visible to the golfer and it can be very easy to walk over the hole, hit a shot close to the hole and arouse the critters or have your golf cart run over the hole getting them very upset. Don’ tool with these guys or it will ruin your round. The two greatest risks from most insect stings are allergic reaction (which occasionally could be fatal in some individuals) and effects a persons breathing, and infection (more common and less serious). Usually if the bite is from only one, two, or three bees or wasps the most likely result will be skin irritation and minor pain for as long as an hour or so absent any medical attention. Actions golfers should take to avoid brief encounters with bees, wasps, and hornets include:

Being aware of your surroundings and that includes over hanging tree limbs and bushes where you might relieve yourself or accidentally hit with a club,

Have medical treatment ready if you are allergic to their stings and happen to get stung once or multiple times,

Heat or Sun Stroke – Heat or sun stroke is a medical condition that can occur to people who are in the outdoors and exposed to unusually warm or hot conditions. It is a form of hyperthermia where the body temperature becomes too high. Typically the body temperature is approaching or is at or over 104 degrees versus the normal range of 98 degrees. It is typically an emergency situation and can be fatal if not dealt with aggressively and quickly. There are many symptoms to developing heat stroke which include: headache, dizziness, nausea, dry skin, weakness or fainting, vomiting, hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, rapid pulse and a high body temperature. Because golfers are on a golf course for anywhere from two to six hours, sometimes under very hot and oppressive weather conditions, heat stroke, sun stroke, or heat exhaustion can occur particularly to older golfers. Therefore, golfers who spend the better part of half a day under the beating sun can get or develop sun stroke especially if they do not take actions to stay cool and wet and cool such as we have alluded to before. Actions that should be taken during the round to prevent heat stroke include:

Do not allow yourself to become dehydrated when playing in hot conditions (i.e. drink fluids during the round),

Avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather,

If you are doing something active such as playing golf, take precautions to stay cool such as by drinking plenty of water, and putting wet and cool towels on your head and around your neck,

If you feel yourself getting very hot and sluggish, sick to your stomach, or developing a head ache, stop playing, seek shade, rest, drink some fluids and put cool compresses on your head,

If the weather is real hot and you are planning to play golf, plan on trying to play at a slower pace throughout the round, put a golf umbrella over your head while walking, stay in the shade when possible and above all do not rush.

I hope this article will be of benefit to you and you will have many safe rounds of golf as you practice safety principles on the golf course.