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Golf Doctor

Scorching summer sun poses problems for golfers


As I write this column on this early June day, I notice that the daytime high temperatures here in Las Cruces are going to be over or hovering around 100 degrees for the next two weeks. Playing golf out in the dazzling, intense sun these days can certainly present health dangers. Those who are new to this area need to understand how hot the midday sun can be. Watch an egg fry on the hood of your car. A person or pet locked in a hot car can die in less than 20 minutes. It takes only 15 to 30 minutes for unprotected exposed skin to get painfully sunburned. You don’t have to turn lobster red to suffer from sun poisoning. Overexposure to UV rays can result in pain and tingling, swelling of the skin, headache, dizziness, fever and chills, nausea and a painful rash.

Dangers of heat illness associated from being out in sweltering heat outdoors fall into three basic categories: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Medical experts note that a person suffering from heatstroke will feel really hot and will usually not be completely rational or focused. There is hot, flushed dry skin, rapid heart rate, quickened shallow breathing and often vomiting.  Frequently, heatstroke sufferers seem disoriented or perhaps delirious, and will sometimes pass out. Heatstroke is a serious emergency and immediate transport to the hospital emergency room is a must.

For us living in the Chihuahuan desert,  there is generally very low humidity. Nevertheless, it can be quite muggy, causing heat problems on the golf course if we’re not careful. Here are some quick tips to pay attention to in order to prevent the serious symptoms of sun and heat-induced illness.

Of course, drink plenty of water, even when you don’t feel thirsty. Keep water with you on the golf course. If the course you play does not have cool pure water available every other hole, bring your own, carrying it in a cooler in your cart or bag. Beer is not a help in hydrating.

Wear loose fitting, breathable light clothing that allows moisture to evaporate. Apply high SPF sunscreen before you go out in the sun, and then every hour or two after that. Understand the medication you’re taking and how excessive heat may affect your reactions.  Be careful about your consumption of alcohol on hot days, as this can quicken the onset of heatstroke. If you are overweight or diabetic be especially careful when outside in dangerously hot conditions. Also, the older you are, the more vulnerable you are to heat illness. Eat fresh fruit or healthy snacks at regular intervals to maintain your energy. Seek help if feeling weak.

As far as actually playing golf, hot sun and high temperatures can affect different things from the distance the golf ball travels to the condition of the turf grass you’re hitting from.  Your ball will fly only 2- to 4 percent farther at 90 degrees versus 50 degrees – less than two yards for every 10 degree rise in temperature – so the very low humidity and the wind make a much bigger difference. Higher temperature makes less difference with higher lofted irons, and more distance with a driver. This is the time of year that the grass grows and the dormant Bermuda is green, meaning lies in the fairway are mostly better, so contact with clubs should be “cleaner.” That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it doesn’t take much in the blistering hot days in mid-summer for golf course grass to burn out. The hot summer sun can sap one’s energy and lead to “brain fog,” where your focus and concentration and sharp thinking suffers. Again, the key is continuing to stay hydrated and seeking shade wherever possible.

Blanchard, golf