Golf seems like a gentle sport. Your body is not jarred or jostled and your legs are not pounding pavement. But golfers can still get injured and need to take time off because of pain.
Luckily, you can avoid most injuries with safety steps and good form. You will want to focus on flexibility, strength, and proper form to stay in the game.
How Golf Hurts
The list of golf injuries is long. Many are from stress on the back and shoulders when swinging the club. Other injuries are from poor form and repetitive motions.
The twisting motion of the golf swing, the movement of the spine, and repeated bending to take putts all lead to back pain. Golfers are also likely to have muscle imbalances since most of the stress is on one side of the body. You can lower the risk by having strong core muscles to control the twisting mechanism. You will also need to be flexible to lower the risk of stretching your back muscles too far. If you want to strengthen your lower back muscles, you may want to try rowing, yoga, or Pilates.
You risk pulled muscles in the hip area when you rotate your body. Make sure to stretch your hip muscles well after you warm up.
You use your shoulder in both the take-away and follow-through of your swing. It is an area that is at risk for strains and sprains. Work on stretching and strengthening the shoulder. Try lateral shoulder raises with dumbbells or rotator cuff exercises, such as internal and external rotations with a dumbbell.
The shock at impact between the club and the ball or the ground is felt by the elbow muscles and tendons. The risk of tendinopathy is greater if you have poor form.
Like tennis players, golfers can get tendonitis of the wrist because of the way they repeatedly extend and flex the joint. And if you miss the ball and hit the ground, the muscles and tendons of your wrist absorb much of that impact, too.
There are many bones in your hand that are at higher risk for chipping or breaking when you play golf. Breaks happen when hitting the ground instead of the ball. Good form and solid ball contact will lower the risk of most of these problems.
Some players have changes in their knuckle bones from arthritis. This is not caused by golfing, but it does affect the way these players hold the club. Talk to your doctor about treatment methods that can help.
You would not think that putting could cause an injury, but it can. You need good flexibility and strength in your hamstrings so you do not pull them when you are putting.
Fitness and Safety
Most pro golfers follow fitness programs. Beyond being fit, you may want to work with a golf pro to learn proper methods. Good form will put less stress on your body.
Before you play, get in the habit of warming up your muscles and stretching. Make it part of your routine off the course, too. When stretching, focus on the lower back, hips, legs, and shoulders.
Beware of the Weather
Weather can also cause problems on the course. A sunny day could expose you to harmful UVA and UVB rays for hours. Be sure to wear sunscreen, bring a hat, and have sunglasses handy.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear a hat.
- Head for the shade or the clubhouse if you start to feel overheated, flushed, or nauseous.
Also, always head to the clubhouse is there is a thunderstorm on the way.
National Golf Foundation
United States Golf Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Golf injury prevention. Stop Sports Injuries website. Available at: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/golf-injury-prevention.aspx. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Golf injuries to the hand, wrist, or elbow. Handcare—American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: https://www.assh.org/handcare/condition/golf-injuries. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Golf injury prevention. OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/golf-injury-prevention. Accessed June 23, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/23/2021