Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., shares tips on how to injury proof the golf course

By |  September 20, 2023 0 Comments

For those around the golf profession, there is little doubt that it is a competitive sport. Yet, to some, golf may appear more of a hobby or a leisure activity. What contributes to this questioning of golf might be rooted in its diversity of play.

Karl Danneberger

Karl Danneberger, Ph.D

You can play golf competitively by the rules, or you can play by your own rules; you can walk and carry your bag or ride around in a cart with music and a drink; you can play with a group or alone.

The health benefits associated with the physical exertion of golf were published in a research report by the R&A entitled Golf and Health. One of the many benefits described by this study is that “golfers under the age of 80 had better strength and balance than sedentary non-golfers of similar ages.”

Golf encompasses four major sports components — competition, physical effort, skill and rules. Given the effort hitting a golf ball a long way demands, a high level of physical fitness and conditioning is needed for a top-level golfer.

Gordon Sargent, a member of the Vanderbilt golf team, received considerable media attention this past summer for being the low amateur at the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.

His ball striking, as measured in ball speed and clubhead speed, are what really made him popular, especially on social media. The average golfer’s club head speed is around 93 mph. Mr. Sargent’s normal ball speed is above 185 mph, with a personal best of 197 and a clubhead speed of 132 mph.

The turf monster

Increasingly injuries to the lower back, wrist and neck are associated with swinging the golf club. Famous golfers like Tiger Woods have suffered back and neck injuries, while Paula Creamer, for example, has battled past wrist injuries. At current swing speeds being generated by elite golfers, how can injuries not be a part of the game?

Golf injuries, however, are not just limited to those associated with the physical action of swinging a golf club. Since golf is played on varying natural landscapes, injuries can occur from just walking the golf course.

This summer, I tore a calf muscle walking up a relatively steep incline to tee off. The injury subsequently ended the golf season for me.

Although embarrassing to tell my healthcare specialist I injured my leg playing golf, I found out that it’s a pretty common place to pick up an injury. The physical therapist conveyed stories of patients injured walking in and out of a bunker, around a steep pond or green embankment and even getting in and out of a golf cart.

Bunker etiquette

Golf is described, by some, as an enjoyable walk through nature. I would suggest it’s more like hiking, as you navigate the sometimes-sharp contours of a golf course.

Take, for example, bunkers. Increasingly, to challenge the improving skills of golfers, bunkers are becoming deeper with steeper faces. The increasing difficulty of bunker shots has increased the potential for lower leg stress, combined with balance issues climbing into and then out of the bunker.

One important point of bunker accessibility is the placement of bunker rakes. How often do you find bunker rakes on the steepest side of the bunker, requiring you either walk down a steep incline to get to the rake or through the bunker and up an incline to retrieve it?

Bunker rakes often direct the golfer to the point of bunker entry. Why not place rakes strategically that draw a golfer to the safest and least stressful means of entering a bunker?

While the majority of golf injuries associated with swinging a club are beyond our control, others can be minimized by identifying potential points of injury by being observant while walking the golf course and through the daily setup routine.

This article is tagged with , and posted in Columns, From the Magazine

About the Author: Karl Danneberger, Ph.D.

Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of horticulture and crop science at The Ohio State University. He is author of the popular The Turf Doc column that appears monthly in Golfdom. Karl writes on topics ranging from Poa annua to pest control.

Post a Comment