Golf Is More Dangerous Than Boxing Or Rugby?? Really??
I read Golf Monthly for instruction, information and relaxation. So, imagine my dismay when I came across the headline ‘Statistics show that golf is more dangerous than rugby and boxing‘ on my favourite sports website.
Now, I’m a girl who loves and values life, so was this the cue for me to trade in my TaylorMade M4’s for a scrum cap and a punch bag, or was Disraeli right when he said, ‘there are three kinds of lies… lies, damned lies and statistics’?
Golf is dangerous. Fact. As someone who has witnessed a serious eye injury caused by a rebounding golf ball, I am more respectful than most of the perils of ‘taking on that tree’ or even creeping in front of your partners in order to keep the pace of play moving. But, unlike rugby and boxing, most injuries in golf are avoidable. Nobody is actually trying to hit the ball at you (well, hardly anybody!).
Closer examination of the dangerous sports survey quoted in Golf Monthly revealed the most hazardous activity of all on their list was… ‘general exercise’. Yes, step classes and jogging are even more hairy than sky-diving and white water-rafting. What does that tell us?!
It strikes me that the hidden message here is people who engage in ‘general exercise’ aren’t taking it seriously enough to guard against the minor aches and pains that inevitably come with moving their bodies briefly out of their comfort zones. Couch potatoes turned marathon runners are on a fast track for A and E.
Maybe, just maybe, the danger is not so much with the sport but with the sportsman or woman trying to play it. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. And, let’s be honest, most club golfers fail to prepare. We try to copy the great professional players in what they wear, how they swing and even how they shout after the ball, but we tend to ignore their warm-up routines.
If we model ourselves on any tour pro it is Rory McIlroy at Medinah in 2012. If you recall, he got his time zones mixed up on the morning of the Ryder Cup singles and needed an Illinois State Police escort to get him to the first tee with ten minutes to spare. He duly beat Keegan Bradley 2&1. So much for the range!
For most of us, turning up on the tee with ten minutes to spare is probably about five minutes too soon. And if we dare to engage in a few prescribed pre-round stretches we know they will be greeted by a volley of sarcastic comments. The only way we would get away with a proper muscle loosening programme is to perform it, like Miguel Angel Jimenez, with a big fat cigar in our mouth.
We are about to set out on a 6-mile hike on which we will (attempt to) repeat a twisting, pivoting body movement that exerts unique physical stress on the back, knees, shoulders, hips, wrists and neck. And that’s if you’re doing it right! And yet our tried and trusted preparation for this ‘dangerous’ activity is a bacon bap and a cup of coffee. Perhaps a putt or two if there’s time.
Better still, a lot of us will then strap 25 pounds of iron to our backs for the journey. If your course is anything like ours at the moment, there are areas roped off to winter trolley traffic in order to protect approaches and aprons. It just seems easier to take a few clubs out of the bag and carry. You will never find a physiotherapist that would recommend carrying or even pulling a golf bag on wheels but we know best. And this is a sport played by a higher proportion of 60 and 70-somethings already prone to back and joint problems simply because of their age.
Conclusion… most of these golf injuries are probably self-inflicted wounds. New Year’s resolution… make a bit more time to get ready for golf.
So, on a recent sunshine golf break in South Africa I took the opportunity to visit the practice range before each round and even to treat myself to the services of a caddy on one occasion. While it felt good to prowl the fairways like a pro and raid his local knowledge for putting lines, I had the uncomfortable feeling that he was betting against his fellow bag carriers on my performance. I already put quite enough pressure on myself without someone else tut-tutting when I tug a short iron into a bunker. He had to go… replaced by an electric trolley.
I persevered with the policy of hitting a bucket of balls before each round but I came to the conclusion there is a difference between warming-up on the range and trying to give yourself a lesson on the range. Fine-tuning your swing in the minutes before you hit that dreaded first tee shot is supposed to be a confidence-giver. But if you’re duffing it on the range, it can work the other way. I am not totally convinced that I play any worse if I confine myself to a few stretches and practice swishes before teeing it up for real.
And there’s the problem. Golfers need psychologists as much as physiotherapists.
If you ask most club players ‘where it hurts’ when they are suffering during a round of golf, they will probably point to their heads! For all of the body’s creaks and groans during those 4 hours of alternating highs and lows, it is the mental scars that really burn and sting. There I was strolling unburdened down sun-kissed fairways while a hired hand carried my heavy sporting luggage… and yet my caddy’s gambling habits were totally unnerving me. A more detailed survey of golfing injuries would reveal that most of them occur between the ears.