This hazard will kill you!

July 7, 2022

Over the past 25 years, in my golfing career (if you can call an ongoing 18 handicap a career), I have encountered a few dangerous situations playing golf, but there is one continuous life threatening hazard on every course. So be careful.

On a South Carolina course, I saw numerous signs near water hazards, which read, “Beware of alligators, do not retrieve your ball from the water!” Dangerous, yes, but only an idiot would reach into murky water with a sign in bold, red letters, warning you of the local, hungry reptiles (I pride myself for not being an idiot, but sometimes my wife disagrees).

On a Georgia course a few years ago, I stepped into a large bunker and a rabid fox came out of a burrow and showed me the error of my ways. The ball, my sand wedge and I all made a hasty retreat to safety. Dangerous yes, but I played it safe and let him have his front yard (I also alerted the local ranger).

On two different western Maryland courses, I had a run in with a six-foot black snake on the first course, while looking for my ball in a wooded area and on the second, a wonderful surprise, when hornets did not like me looking for my ball near their nest. Dangerous, yes, but not life threatening. Throw in a snapping turtle, poison ivy, chiggers and avoiding deer ticks, and you would obviously conclude the safest place to be was on the fairway. Well, what if I told you that was wrong, and in some cases, dead wrong. If you have followed my columns over the past 11 years in the Beach Paper, you know by now I do not want to bore you writing about skills and drills, but try and rely on humor to keep your mind stress-free on vacation.

But for the next few minutes, as a retired physical education, health teacher and guidance counselor, I need to have a teachable moment with you. If only one person learns from my soap box infomercial, then I have done my job, so why not be that one person, who avoids skin cancer?

If you already use sunscreen on the course or like the thrill of reaching into an alligator-infested pond to retrieve your ball, then stop reading and enjoy the rest of your vacation.

The worst hazard on any golf course is the sun. Let me repeat that, the sun - not sand, water, trees, rocks or the cart girl running out of your favorite “beverage.”

Unless you were born under a rock, you already know the value of sunscreen but now the question is asked, “do you use it consistently, when you play golf, even on cloudy days?”  Five years ago, on a whim, I went to a dermatologist and was surprised; no - stunned is a better word, to be diagnosed with pre-cancerous lesions on my face. What I thought were old age spots were potentially, deadly melanoma, if left untreated.

Years of lifeguarding at a pool was a part of the problem, but in the past 25 years, since I took up golf, and being macho, did not put on sunscreen or wear a wide-brimmed hat with any consistency.  I caught my potential problem early and a three-week facial cream therapy treatment gave me a clean bill of health. But don’t take my word for it; you don’t know me and I can relate to your reluctance to “lotion up,” or to wear a wide-brimmed hat.

I know all the excuses:  I don’t need it; I just tan. I don’t have time before the round to put on lotion or wearing a wide-brim med hat looks dorky. And one of my all-time favorites, sunscreen will make my hands slippery when I hold a club. 

I want you to read a partial list of professionals who learned the hard way: Fred Couples, Roy Sabbatini, Brian Price, Aron Price and Adam Scott all had surgery to remove potential cancerous cells. 

• See a dermatologist once a year

• The American Cancer Society data shows more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year and on average 10,000 die from the exposure.

• Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world.

• If you insist on reaching into an alligator invested water hazard, at least put lotion on both arms, one cancer free arm is better than none.

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