How much harm can a golf ball do to you?
What are the injuries that can occur when being hit by a golf ball, and in the most extreme circumstances, can a golf ball kill you?
This sounds like a conversation that may take place after a few adult beverages, but being hit by a golf ball is no laughing matter.
So, if we are asking, can a golf ball kill you? Does this mean that we should play golf in hard hats and high-viz jackets to reduce the opportunities of being hurt?
Of course, it doesn’t.
So, to give you the broadest spectrum on this topic, we’ll answer the following:
- Can A Golf Ball Kill You?
- Types Of Injuries Sustained By Being Hit By Golf Ball
- What Should You Do If You Get Hit By A Golf Ball?
- The Forces Involved In Hitting A Golf Ball – Why Can It Do Damage?
- Does The Golf Industry Take The Danger Seriously?
Let’s get into it!
Can a golf ball kill you?
So, let’s deal with this one straight off the bat.
To answer the question of can a golf ball kill you, the answer is yes, it can.
But the chances of this happening are less than 1%.
The most likely cause of death from a golf ball would relate to a direct hit to the head with tremendous force, especially around the temple area.
Whilst death might not be instantaneous from a direct hit by a golf ball, there could be the possibility of internal bleeding, brain damage, or hemorrhaging, which could cause death at a later stage.
This sadly was the case for an Australian golfer who suffered a direct blow to the head by an errant golf shot whilst playing at his local club.
Although he was treated at the course by paramedics and was allowed to go home, his condition deteriorated, and he was admitted to the hospital, where he passed away a few days later.
We also need to consider that if there are any other underlying medical reasons, these can also play their part in answering the question of can a golf ball kill you.
Can a Golf Ball Kill You if You Are At a Professional Tournament?
Although no spectators have been killed, they can be at risk from a direct hit from a wayward golf ball.
One incident, which thankfully resulted in no lasting damage, happened during the opening round of the 2016 Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.
The marshal was wearing a hat that softened the blow.
The force of the impact, however, meant the golf ball went from hitting the Marshall, who was positioned on the right side of the fairway, rolling across the fairway and ending up in the left rough.
On reaching the scene, Mickelson checked to make sure the marshal was okay and joked with him that if his head had been softer, his ball might have stayed on the fairway!
A handshake and a signed glove from Mickelson would have helped ease the bump and headache the marshal would have had after the hit.
Types of injuries sustained by being hit by golf ball
Errant golf balls can hit different parts of the body as well as the head. A golf ball injury is more common than you might think.
Golfers who have suffered being hit in head with golf ball might exhibit the following internal symptoms:
Eyes can also be vulnerable, as one French spectator found out at the Ryder Cup in 2018.
Brooks Keopka hit an errant tee shot on the 6th hole during the first day of the tournament, which struck the spectator in her right eye.
The force of the impact led to the subsequent loss of vision in her eye, and lawsuits against Keopka are still ongoing to this day.
On the surface and visible to anyone, a golf ball impact can break the skin leading to cuts or gashes.
If you have been hit in head with golf ball, it is likely that a large bump can form in the area where the impact occurred.
It is unlikely that a golf ball impact can break any major bones, but smaller bones in the hand, for example, could be broken as a result of a direct hit.
What should you do if you get hit by a golf ball?
How many people are injured by golf balls every year? Probably a few more than you think; annually, nearly 40,000 golfers are admitted to emergency rooms after being injured at play, most commonly by wayward golf ball injury.
If contact is made with the head or eyes, medical assistance should be sought immediately.
Even if the hit doesn’t look bad but the individual complains about dizziness, nausea, or maybe just isn’t completely focused on anything after the impact, medical assistance is needed.
Head injuries could result in an MRI being required to determine exactly what damage has been done and if there is any likelihood of longer-lasting damage.
Cuts, bruises, and bumps can be treated by compressed ice being applied to the affected area and dressing applied if necessary to any cuts.
If there is any uncertainty, medical assistance should be called for.
The forces involved in hitting a golf ball – why can it do damage?
A golf ball is 1.68 inches (42.67mm) in diameter and weighs a maximum of 1.62 ounces (45.93 grams).
So what happens when a golf is hit?
Let’s use the best players in the game as an example.
On the PGA Tour, the average club head speed for a driver is just under 115mph, with the average ball speed being in the region of 171 mph.
At the top end of the spectrum, Cameron Champ averages nearly 125mph club head speed producing an average ball speed of just under 190 mph.
So if the golf ball is leaving the club face at such high speeds, you can imagine that the ball still has a lot of energy as it’s heading toward the ground.
Golf balls compress against the club face at impact, which helps provide its energy and speed. The principle is then true if the ball strikes an individual, it will compress marginally on impact.
Taking it even further, Kyle Berkshire, who is currently ranked number 1 in the World Long Drive standings, set the current world record for ball speed.
In a training session held in December 2022, Berkshire smashed a drive with a recorded ball speed of 236mph to set the new world record for ball speed.
As the modern game becomes more about power, especially at the highest levels, it could mean more serious injuries to spectators at tournaments if they are not careful.
So, the answer to the question “How many people are injured by golf balls every year?” was surprisingly high. So what can we do as golfers when we are out playing?
Whilst we can’t necessarily stop somebody from being hit by a golf ball, we, at the very least, should give a warning.
If you have hit an errant shot, you need to shout fore and the direction of where the ball is going – “Fore left!!”
This, at the very least, alerts golfers or passers-by that a golf ball is going to land close to them.
Certainly, when golfers hear somebody shouting fore, they will generally duck down and cover their heads to minimize any injury.
Golf courses can have a public right of way, which means that nongolfers can walk on or at the perimeter of the golf course.
If this is the case, most golf courses will have a sign erected informing passers-by that they could be at risk of being hit by a stray golf ball.
This can protect the golf course and the golfer who hit the shot from any subsequent liability as any passer-by has been duly noted of the potential danger.
At professional tournaments, marshals are positioned from the tee to the green to assist crowd safety from errant shots; players and caddies are encouraged to shout fore as well.
Does the golf industry take The Danger Seriously?
The short answer to this is yes.
There are a number of specialist insurance companies that provide policies for golfers.
Along with obvious things like cover paying out in the event of your golf clubs being stolen, policies will also offer something called public liability.
Public liability specifically refers to causing somebody injury or death in the event of them being struck by a golf shot from hit.
Offering public liability cover demonstrates that these insurance policies do take the question of whether can a golf ball kill you seriously.
Public liability can offer payouts that run into the millions based on the extent of the injuries sustained by the golfer.
Golf insurance doesn’t cost that much in terms of monthly or annual premiums, plus there are lots of additional covers offered within the insurance package, which could be beneficial for you.
Can a golf ball kill you?
In the most extreme circumstances, it can, but the chances still remain very small.
Any direct hits to the head will require professional medical help to deal with the immediate damage but also assess whether there is any potential long-term damage.
Being hit by a golf ball in any other part of your body will still cause damage and can require treatment, but in most instances, the individual will make a full recovery.
As golfers, we need to be able to warn other players or passersby of an errant shot with a shout of fore.
Being on a golf course isn’t a risky business, but we should look out for each other to ensure nobody is hurt.