For many golfers, a day on the course offers solitude, recreation, relaxation and camaraderie. While golf has the reputation as a genteel and relatively safe pastime, golfers need to be mindful of some real dangers lurking on the course.
Even the best golfers in the game stray from the fairway every now and again. When you reach the high grass of the rough and the tree line at the edge of the fairway in search of a wayward shot, remember you're leaving the well-manicured world of the golf course and entering Mother Nature's domain.
While bears and alligators are the chief wildlife concerns at some more exotic courses, the creature golfers in the Northeast should try to avoid is much smaller. Deer ticks thrive in the habitat created where the golf course meets the woods.
Deer ticks, of course, are notorious for carrying and transmitting Lyme disease. The bite from an infected tick can lead to a bull's-eye shaped rash and flu-like symptoms. In advanced stages, Lyme disease can lead to severe arthritis as well as neurological and heart problems.
It's also wise to wear light-colored clothing when golfing. The lighter fabrics make it easier to spot a tick quickly and pick it off before it imbeds itself.
SUMMER SUN WREAKS HAVOC
For those golfers lucky enough to spend more time in the middle of the fairway than in the trees, sun overexposure of the sun represents another major danger on the course. Golfers spend anywhere from four to five hours at a clip in the direct sunlight. Again, long-sleeved, light colored clothing is recommended to cover up and protect skin. A wide-brimmed hat can not only discourage ticks from imbedding in your scalp, but also offer protection from the sun.
Another obvious layer of protection is sunscreen. It's usually best to apply sunscreen once on the first few holes and then again at the beginning of the back nine.
If you are an avid golfer, the Skin Cancer Foundation advises that a doctor check your skin at least once a year for any abnormalities. According to the foundation, nearly 10,000 people died of skin cancer last year.
KEEP AN EYE TO THE SKY
While ticks and the sun can take a long time to cause damage to golfers, a sudden spring thunderstorm can come up quickly and not only ruin a round of golf, but also present a serious danger.
Estimates place the total number of people killed by lightning each year in the United States at about 300. Most casualties occur when people are caught out in open areas, like a golf course, during a storm.
At the first sign of a storm, your best course of action is to seek shelter in the clubhouse or any nearby structure. Common sense would dictate that you should abandon that bag full of 14 lightning rods.
Always be sure to check the forecast before you play. Once you're on the course, enjoy the round, but always be mindful of any dark clouds on the horizon.
Issue 2.19: May 10, 2007