Golf injuries: Play it safe with these tips

Golf injuries are common but avoidable. Learn how to protect yourself.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Although golf is a low-impact sport, it's associated with a significant number of injuries. Many golfing-related injuries are a result of poor mechanics or overuse. The most commonly injured area is the lower back, followed by the elbow, wrist and hand, and shoulder.

Follow these tips to stay in shape on the course.

Adjust your swing

The entire body is used to execute a golf swing in a complex and coordinated movement. When this movement is repeated frequently, significant stress is placed on the same muscles, tendons and joints. Over time, this can result in injury.

Understanding the mechanics behind your golf swing can help you prevent golf injuries. Try to:

  • Use proper posture. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and rotated slightly outward, and with your knees slightly bent. Hold your spine relatively straight; your trunk should be tilted forward, but most of that movement should come from your hips. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to neck and back strain.
  • Stay smooth. The power of a golf swing comes from force transferred smoothly through all the muscle groups, from your ankles to your wrists. If you depend on one part of your body for your hitting power, you may be more prone to injuries. For example, overemphasizing your wrists during your swing can lead to golfer's elbow — a strain of the muscles on the inside of the forearm.
  • Don't overswing. If you swing the club too hard or too fast, you may stress your joints. Relax and take a nice, easy swing at the ball. The best golfers have consistent — not necessarily fast — swing tempos.

If you want to reduce the risk of golf injuries, consider taking lessons. What you learn about your golf swing may even help you shave strokes from your score.

Other tips to keep you on the course

There's more to golf than your golf swing. Consider other ways to lower your risk of golf injuries:

  • Warm up. Before you practice your swing or play a round of golf, warm up for at least 10 minutes with a brisk walk or a set of jumping jacks. Stretch your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, spine and pelvis. Swing your golf club a few times, gradually increasing your range of motion.
  • Start slowly. You might start out by practicing your swing for hours, believing it's helping your game. But if your body isn't conditioned for the strain, repetitively practicing your golf swing may do more harm than good. Work up to your desired level of activity instead.
  • Strengthen your muscles. You don't need bulging muscles to hit a long drive — but the stronger your muscles, the greater your club speed. Stronger muscles are also less prone to injury. For best results, do strength training exercises year-round.
  • Focus on flexibility. Regular stretching can improve your range of motion and lead to a more fluid golf swing.
  • Build up your endurance. Regular aerobic activity can give you staying power on the course. Try walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming.
  • Lift and carry clubs carefully. Golfers who carry their own bags have higher rates of shoulder and back injuries than do other golfers. If you jerk heavy clubs out of the trunk of your car, you could injure yourself before you reach the first tee. Use proper lifting technique: Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift.
  • Try to avoid hitting objects other than the ball. Elbow and wrist injuries are often the result of hitting the ground or the rough.
  • Choose proper footwear. Dress for comfort and protection from the elements. Wear golf shoes with short cleats. Long cleats dig into the sod and hold your feet planted as you swing, which may strain your knees or ankles.

Watch out for hazards on the course

Be careful to limit your sun exposure while golfing. Remember to:

  • Use sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses to filter out UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear a hat with a visor to shade your eyes and face.

Watch for signs and symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Drink plenty of water, whether you feel thirsty or not, and cut your game short if necessary. Red flags for heat-related injury might include:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion

When riding in a golf cart, keep your feet inside the cart. Golfers have suffered broken ankles when their feet have been caught in the moving parts of golf carts.

Keep an eye out for storms. Call it quits at the first sign of threatening skies or lightning.

Play smart

Whether golf is a new interest or a lifelong passion, make the most of your time on the course by protecting yourself from golf injuries. Consider it all part of the game.

April 18, 2018 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. 6 tips for an active getaway you'll remember
  3. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  4. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  5. Are you ready for a workout?
  6. Balance training: Boost your long-term health with these exercises
  7. Barriers to fitness
  8. Blood Doping
  9. BMI calculator
  10. Body fat analyzers
  11. Boot camp workout
  12. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  13. Core exercises
  14. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  15. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  16. Toning shoes
  17. Does fitness trump thinness?
  18. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  19. Dress smart for winter workouts
  20. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  21. Exercise benefits
  22. Exercise and chronic disease
  23. Exercise and illness
  24. Stress relief
  25. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  26. Exercising with arthritis
  27. Exercise smarter, not longer
  28. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  29. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  30. Fitness program
  31. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  32. Fitness motivation
  33. Fitness ball exercises videos
  34. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  35. Fitness for less
  36. Fitness ideas for the entire family
  37. Fitness program
  38. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  39. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  40. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  41. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  42. Fitness training routine
  43. Fitting in fitness
  44. Going up? Take the stairs
  45. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  46. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  47. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  48. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  49. Heart rate
  50. Heat and exercise
  51. Hockey Flywheel
  52. How fit are you?
  53. How much exercise do you really need?
  54. 3 easy ways to get started with yoga
  55. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  56. Keep your workout fun
  57. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  58. Late-day exercise
  59. Marathon and the Heat
  60. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  61. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  62. Natural movement: Going back to basics
  63. Need a gym to get fit?
  64. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  65. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  66. No pain, no gain? No way!
  67. No time for exercise? No way!
  68. Office exercise
  69. Overuse injury prevention
  70. Pregnancy and exercise
  71. Ready to get in on the aquatic fitness movement?
  72. Simple tips for staying active and mobile with osteoarthritis
  73. Core-strength exercises
  74. Guide to stretches
  75. Balance exercises
  76. Fitness ball
  77. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  78. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  79. Stay fit and healthy — without breaking a sweat
  80. Stay fit at any age
  81. Travel and work
  82. Strength training: How-to video collection
  83. The best ways to bounce back after a tough workout
  84. 5 common sports injuries in young female athletes
  85. To stay fit, embrace the power of play
  86. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  87. Too sick to exercise?
  88. Fitness tips for business travelers
  89. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  90. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  91. What it takes to be agile at any age
  92. Winter blahs? 4 pro tips to get you off the couch.
  93. Cold-weather exercise
  94. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  95. Working out? Remember to drink up
  96. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!