Golf seems like a gentle sport. Your body is not jarred or jostled and your legs are not pounding pavement. Though the dangers of golf are not obvious, golfers may be injured and sidelined by pain.
Luckily, with a little prevention and good form, most golf injuries are avoidable. You'll want to focus on flexibility, strength, and proper technique to stay in the game.
The list of possible golf injuries is surprisingly extensive. Many result from stress on the back and shoulders when swinging the club. Other injuries result from improper form and the repetitive nature of the sport.
The twisting motion of the golf swing, the movement of the spine, and repeated bending to take putts all contribute to back pain. Golfers are also likely to have muscular imbalances since most of the stress is on one side of your body. Many back problems can be prevented with strong trunk muscles (abdominal muscles and back muscles), which control the twisting mechanism, and good flexibility, which helps prevent overstretching of back muscles. If you want to strengthen your lower back muscles, you may want to try rowing, yoga, or pilates.
As you rotate your body, you risk pulled muscles in the hip area. Make sure to stretch your hip muscles well after warming up.
You engage 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 largely absorbed by the elbow muscles and tendons. Tendinopathy at the elbow is a risk that increases if your technique is incorrect.
Like tennis players, golfers sometimes suffer from tendonitis of the wrist as a result of repeatedly extending and flexing the joint. And if you miss the ball and hit the ground, the muscles and tendons of your wrist absorb much of that impact, as well.
There are several bones in your hand—the hamate bone and the navicular (or scaphoid) bone, for example—that are susceptible to chipping or breakage when playing golf. Usually, the breaks result from hitting the ground instead of the ball. Good technique and solid ball contact will prevent most of these injuries.
Some players experience arthritic changes in knuckle bones. Though the changes are not caused by golfing, they affect the way these players hold the club. If arthritis pain is creating problems for you, see your doctor to discuss treatment options.
You would not think the fairly simple putting motion could cause an injury, but it can. You need good flexibility and strength in your hamstrings to avoid pulling them when you're putting.
The majority of professional golfers today are on structured fitness programs. Beyond being fit, you may want to work with a golf pro to learn proper technique. Good form will put less stress on your body.
Before you play, get in the habit of warming up your muscles and stretching, and make that part of your routine off the course, too. When stretching, focus on the lower back, hips, legs, and shoulders.
Another element that can cause problems on the golf course is the weather. On a sunny day, you will be pounded with UVA and UVB rays for about 4 hours. So be sure to wear sunscreen, bring a hat, and have sunglasses handy.
Also, always head to the clubhouse is there is a thunderstorm approaching.
National Golf Foundation
United States Golf Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Golf injury prevention. Stop Sports Injuries website. Available at: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/golf-injury-prevention.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Golf injuries to the hand, wrist, or elbow. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/Golf.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Golf injury prevention. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00137. Updated August 2016. Accessed January 19, 2017.
Last reviewed January 2017 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 2/5/2015