Who Else Wants To Know The Simple Safety Guidelines for Golfers?

By: Eddy Kong Ww

Golf is a very safe sport - as long as a few basic, common-sense rules of safety are followed. When those rules are ignored, injuries can occur.

Golf involves the swinging of hard clubs, which propel hard balls at high speeds. If you're in the way of either the clubs or the balls, you're in danger.

You could be placing yourself in danger, too, if you do not respect the power of the sun, the danger of lightning, or your body's need for the right kind of fluids on warm days.

Here are some guidelines that can help ensure your safety, and that of those around you on the golf course (note - when finished here, be sure to check out our Golf Etiquette section for additional suggestions):

Keep Track of Those Around You

When a golf club is in your hands and you are preparing to swing, it is your responsbility to make sure your playing partners are a safe distance away from you.

It's not too difficult, after all, to keep track of where everyone is when your group is likely just four or fewer golfers.

Never swing a golf club when another golfer is close to you. That's the most important thing to remember. And be a little extra cautious on practice swings, when it's easy for golfers to let their guard down. Extra vigilance is also needed when younger golfers are part of your group.

Also, look ahead of you, and to the left and right of the area where you are aiming your shot. Don't hit your ball until you are confident that any golfers up ahead are out of your range.

Heads Up

While it's the responsibility of every golfer to be sure it is safe for them to take their stroke, you can't always rely on every golfer to do just that. So even when it's not your turn to hit, stay aware of your surroundings.

Be especially careful if you have to venture into an adjoining fairway to retrieve or play an errant shot, or if you are close to an adjoining fairway and golfers on that hole are hitting toward you.

And always keep a safe distance from golfers in your own group when they are preparing to play a stroke.

Yell Fore, or Cover Up When You Hear ItEven if you follow the advice above, there will surely come times when you hit your drive farther than you expected, or a hook or slice comes out of nowhere and takes your ball toward an adjoining fairway.

Or when you play your stroke believing the fairway ahead is clear ... only to notice players up ahead who had been obscured by a hill or trees.

You know what to do: Yell "Fore!" as loud as you can. That is the international word of warning in golf. It lets golfers playing near you know that an errant golf ball might be heading their way, and they need to take cover.

And what should you do when you hear "fore!" being yelled in your direction? For goodness sakes, do not stand up, crane your neck, and try to spot the ball! You're just making yourself a bigger target.

Instead, cover up. Crouch behind your golf bag, get behind a tree, hide behind the cart, cover your head with your arms. Make yourself a smaller target, and protect your head.

Never Hit Into the Group Ahead of YoursThis should go without saying, shouldn't it? What we're talking about are those occasions when a very slow group is ahead of yours, and frustration takes over.

It happens to all of us. Someone in your group gets angry, and next thing you know, they're teeing up a ball and intentionally hitting into the slow-playing group ahead.

If you're ever tempted to do this ... don't. It's very rare, but golfers have been killed after being struck by golf balls. Injuries do occur.

Instead of taking aim at someone in anger, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you're playing golf, a great game, and enjoy the camaraderie with your buddies.

If you spot a course marshall, flag him down and ask if he can help speed up play. Don't take the risk of hurting someone ahead.

Drive Safely

Most golf carts come with a safety label. Read it, and follow the directions. No, driving a golf cart along the course's cart paths isn't a difficult thing to do. But read and observe all safety rules.

Don't hang your feet out of the cart while it's in motion; don't go off-roading over bumpy terrain; don't drive at full speed around curves or down steep hills.

Don't let small children drive the cart (unless they are sitting in your lap and you have your hands on the steering wheel). Don't drive the cart if you've had a few too many beers. And watch out for other golf carts at points where paths cross.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

A typical round of golf means four hours of exposure to the harsh effects of the sun.

More on a slow day, or on a day when you play more than 18 holes. More when you factor in time on the practice putting green or driving range.

In short, golfers have a large exposure to the potentially dangerous effects of the sun. Protect your skin by always using a strong sunscreen.

Also, wear a wide-brimmed cap to keep the sun off your face. Better yet, get yourself a straw hat or other full-brimmed hat that will also help keep the sun off the back of your neck.

Add Fluids, the Right Kind of Fluids

If you're playing golf under the sun on a hot day, you'll be sweating off a lot of body fluids. Even if the sun is nowhere to be seen, and it's a cool day, you'll be working up a thirst.

Quench that thirst the right way. Drink plenty of water. If you buy a beverage, make it a sports drink such as Gatorade.

Of course, there are those golfers who play simply as an excuse to drink beer. It's important to avoid beer (at least until after the round) on hot days.

Because alcohol, along with the sun, also dehydrates the human body. And we all know about alcohol's disorienting effect on people. The odds of an accident ocurring go way up with each beer.

Beware Lightning

Lightning is a killer, and during a thunderstorm, golfers carrying metal clubs in their hands while on exposed land are at great risk. If there is lightning anywhere around the golf course, or thunderstorms approaching, take cover.

At the very first sign of lightning, head for the clubhouse. If you are caught out on the course and unable to get to the clubhouse, do not seek cover under trees. Trees are lightning rods.

Instead, look for a designated lightning shelter (found on many courses in areas where lightning occurs with great frequency) or a concrete or stone bathroom.

Open-walled structures will not protect you from lightning, even if they have a lightning rod or are designated as lightning shelters.

If caught out in the open and unable to find shelter, get away from your clubs, your golf cart, water and trees, and remove metal spikes if wearing them. If in a group, group members should remain at least 15 feet apart.

If you feel a tingling sensation or the hair on your arms stands up, crouch in a baseball catcher's position, balancing on the balls of your feet. Fold your arms in front of your knees, keep your feet together and your head forward.

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