Most golfers know that they take their lives into their hands every time they tee off. And many have died in the pursuit of the perfect round. But, while stories of catastrophe abound, a responsible golfer can learn invaluable lessons from those who have gone before.
Below find nine tales from the great Golf Course In the Sky, each followed by critical tidbits of advice for avoiding a similar fate.
Attack of the Giant Amphibious Reptiles
Alligators on the golf course can be extremely dangerous. Bruce Burger of Venice, FL found this out the hard way — he was pulled into a pond when an 11-foot alligator chomped on his right arm. Bruce was playing the 6th hole at Lake Venice Golf Course when he reached into the pond to retrieve his ball. He used his golf club to beat the alligator, which eventually let him go.
How to Avoid Being Eaten by an Alligator
Most people already know: ALLIGATORS LOVE MARSHMALLOWS! This is why they are drawn to your golf ball when it lands in the water. Make sure to carry plenty of marshmallows in your golf bag. I prefer the Jet Puffed brand because they are easy to throw, but any kind will work. (see figure 1, below)
Fig. 1: Show no fear. You have marshmallows.
Before getting too close to the edge of the bank, begin throwing marshmallows into the part of the lake as far from your golf ball as possible. If you are playing with a partner, make sure to work together. Have your partner throw marshmallows while you look for your lost golf ball.
Important Note: Do not try this on a crocodile. Crocodiles are immune to the lure of sugary treats.
Hold Mouth Closed
Alligators bite with force of 1200 lbs. per square inch, but they are very weak when it comes to opening their mouths. If an alligator attacks you while you are reaching into the water, simply wrestle him on to the shore, jab him in the eyes with whatever you can get your hands on, e.g. a green tool, a beer can, your nine iron, your thumb, etc.
When he releases his bite, immediately remove any articles of clothing, or appendages from his mouth and then try to maneuver yourself onto the alligator's back.
Important Note: If you are working with a partner, make sure your partner DOES NOT begin throwing marshmallows into the center of the lake while you are on top of the alligator.
Sit Low, Drive Like a Bat out of Hell
Sally Stewart of Medford, OR was killed when her 84 year-old playing partner ran her down with his golf cart. The two were playing the third hole of Quail Point Golf Course. Sally had hit her ball short and was walking across the cart path when her partner accidentally stomped on the gas instead of the brake.
How to Fend Off an Elderly Golf Cart Driver
Take the First Shot
If an elderly man in a golf cart is coming toward you at a fast rate of speed, use anything you have in your possession – a camera, some FootJoy DryJoys, a rake – to hit the elderly man's eyes or throat, which are most sensitive to pain.
Make loud and repeated screams of "Bloody Murder!" The elderly, although usually hard of hearing, are not by nature stone cold killers. If you can alert the driver to the fact that he is not actually doing anything to stop the golf cart, he may take his foot off of the accelerator. This will increase your chances of survival.
Go Down With the Ship... Not!
A California man fell to his death after driving his golf cart down a twenty-foot embankment and over a sheer rock cliff. He was on the second hole at Pala Mesa Resort Golf Course when he lost control of the golf cart and drove over the raised concrete curb designed to prevent golfers from driving off of cliffs. He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How to Prevent Your Cart from Driving Over a Cliff
Look for Warning Signs
Most golf courses with sheer cliffs have warning signs that specifically point out the areas of relevance. Look for one that says something like "DANGER – 100 FOOT CLIFF AHEAD. DO NOT ENTER!" and steer the golf cart in the opposite direction.
If you do find yourself in a golf cart that is headed for a cliff, do not remain in the cart. Dive out of the golf cart immediately and try to roll as soon as you hit the ground (see figure 2, right).
Limiting your playing to golf courses that are flat and void of cliffs and ravines will greatly increase your odds of survival.
Protect the Family Jewels
A Kenmore, Washington man died when his driver snapped and pierced his groin. He managed to walk approximately 100 yards on Inglewood Golf Course before he collapsed and bled to death.
How to Prevent Being Impaled in the Groin
Release your hips
One reason Tiger Woods gets so much power (and has never been impaled in the groin) is that he fully releases his hips. At impact his hips are pointing at the target. If his driver were to snap in two, the odds of him taking a shot to "the junk" are almost nil.
Practice on the driving range. Address the ball in a normal stance. Swing the club to the top of your back swing and then stop. Now start your downswing by thrusting your hips towards the target. Try to keep your shoulders square and swing down the target line.
Wear a Cup
Many athletes of varying sports wear protective cups, for example baseball players. Granted that in the sport of golf nobody is throwing a 99 mph fastball at you, but there still are inherent dangers to your vital organs. You never know when an errant golf shot is going to catch you in the "family jewels," or perhaps a playing partner takes a practice swing while you are in close proximity. Wearing a cup while playing golf will radically increase your chances of survival.
Damn Those Cheap Aluminum Shafts!
A Gloversville, NY man was killed when his club's shaft pierced his heart. He was playing the sixth hole at Kingsboro Golf Club when he hit a bad shot with his 3-wood. In a fit of rage he struck a bench with the golf club. The club shaft broke, bounced back and stabbed him in the heart.
How to Avoid Being Killed By Your Own Club
Fig. 3: Bend left knee slightly
then release club
Throw The Club
Bad golf shots are unavoidable and a part of the game of golf. When a bad golf shot presents itself, throw the offending club as far as you can. A golf club that is 150 yards down the fairway cannot impale you in the heart. (See figure 3, right)
Curse and Blame other People
Screaming obscenities and blaming other people around you is a non-deadly way to release your anger and frustration. Try to berate your playing partner while gently and tenderly releasing hold of the offending golf club.
Tiger Woods used this method effectively at the 2008 WGC CA Championship after almost hitting a shot into a water hazard. Tiger thoughtfully handed his golf club to his caddy while screaming "Jackass!" at a nearby photographer.
As Tiger walked to the next tee he berated the nearby press corps and shouted "The next time a f***ing photographer shoots a picture (on my back swing) I'm going to break his f***ing neck."
Tiger Woods is the #1 golfer in the world and has never accidentally killed himself (although he did have food poisoning once). Remembering the simple axiom "Golf clubs don't kill people, people kill themselves with golf clubs" can greatly increase your chances of survival.
Beware the Fast-Moving Spruce
Two men were killed when high winds blew a tree onto their golf cart while playing Hermitage Golf Course in Nashville, TN. The two were driving to the next tee in the same golf cart when strong winds caused a tree to split down the middle and fall on their cart, crushing them to death.
How to Dodge a Falling Tree
Study the Conditions
Many of the factors that cause large trees to fall on people and kill them will present themselves many hours in advance. Look for tell-tale warning signs like loose yard debris flying horizontally to the ground or smaller trees snapping and breaking off. Many times your baseball cap will fly off of your head, or your head cover will blow several hundred yards to an adjacent hole. Seek shelter if these conditions exist.
If you find yourself in a cart and driving around in hurricane force winds under large trees, listen intently for cracking and/or snapping. If you hear a gargantuan tree snap launch yourself out of the cart and get as low as possible.
Lay face down in a prone position and crawl on your belly towards open space or shelter. Remember, identifying extreme weather conditions when you are in them and seeking shelter will radically increase your chances of survival.
Golf Cart Air Bags — An Idea Whose Time Has Come
A well-known bank executive died after falling out of a moving golf cart on Rancocas Golf Course in Willingboro, NJ. He was riding in the passenger side of the cart and fell out while reaching for his cell phone. He died from head injuries.
How to Prevent Falling Out of a Golf Cart
Strap Yourself to The Seat
Since making cell phone calls is essential to playing the game of golf, make sure you are strapped to the golf cart while it is moving.
Most golf carts don't come with seat belts so use your belt or a strap from your golf bag to affix yourself to the golf cart. (see figure 4, right)
Wear a helmet
Albeit not trendy, wearing a helmet on the golf course is an invaluable survival skill.
Not only will it help prevent head injuries when falling out of a golf cart, but it will protect you from many of the other deaths mentioned in this article and unforeseen deaths that are not mentioned here (e.g. Death by Rock, Death by Beer Bottle, Death by Angry Birds of Prey, Death by Blow to the Head From a Sand Wedge, etc.)
Man-Eating Sink Hole? Whoo-hoo, Free Drop!
A Japanese woman was killed after falling into a 15 foot sink hole. She was walking down the fairway at Le Pataw Golf Course in Abira, Japan when the ground beneath her feet gave way. Authorities said she drowned in the large volume of water at the bottom of the cavern. The hole was caused by subterranean flow of ice melt and camouflaged by the patch of turf that she walked over.
How to Avoid Falling Into a Sink Hole
Ask Before You Golf
Most golf courses are void of underground snow melt, but it can't hurt to ask in the pro shop when you are paying your greens fees. Make sure you specifically ask "Is there any possibility that anywhere on the property there could be subterranean rivers?" Also ask if there has been any recent dredging, or redirecting of surface water. While you're at it, you could also ask if there are any loose tigers in the area or recent meteorite sightings.
Practice Crevasse Rescue
If you cannot avoid playing a golf course with subterranean rivers make sure to bring safety ropes. Tie yourself off with one or more golfers in your group. When the ground gives way under a golfer, the others in the team must immediately prepare for an abrupt yank. They should flop down and dig in with some object — perhaps a nine iron, or a rake.
Next you should stabilize your position by anchoring the rope and trying to communicate with the victim. Finally, have your team work together to pull the trapped golfer out of the cavern. Practicing crevasse rescue can be a fun team-building experience in addition to being a life-saving technique.
A Deadly Slice
An Arlington, TX golfer died from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a golf shot his son had hit. On the 15th hole at Lake Arlington Golf Course, the man was standing behind a tree 150 yard down the fairway when his son hit a tee shot that took a wild ricochet off of a tree branch and struck him in the neck.
How to Avoid Being Killed by an Errant Golf Shot
Fig. 5: Practice your technique
Be Aware Of Your Location
If you are standing in front of a golfer who is hitting his ball towards their target then you are in what we shall call the "HOT ZONE."
As quickly as you can, run to a location outside of the "HOT ZONE." Standing behind the golfer, "The Safe Zone" is the safest place to avoid errant golf shots.
Take it on the Forehead
The best place to be hit by an errant golf shot is in is the frontal bone. The "frontal bone" is the hardest part of the human skull. This portion of your head consists of the area above the eyes and includes the forehead and roof of the nasal cavity and eye sockets.
If you find yourself in the "HOT ZONE" during a golf shot, face directly towards the golfer, and try to position yourself where you can take the impact straight on. Imagine you have a catcher's mitt glued to your forehead and try to catch the golf ball in the mitt.
You may still be knocked unconscious, but taking the blow on the forehead will drastically increase your odds of survival. (see figure 5, right)
Avoid Golfing With Next of Kin
Heirs can be quite unpredictable and devious in their attempts to prematurely inherit your estate. The safest bet is to avoid golfing with them altogether.
A Last Word
Looking for a less-deadly book of golf tips? Check out The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook For Golf. We found it quite useful in researching tip #12 — "How to Kill an Enraged Opponent Using Only a Scorecard Pencil and a Small Paperback". Sadly that tip didn't make our final list, but the book's not bad.
Comments? Questions? Got a deadly golf story of your own and a survival tip to go with it? Drop us a line in the comment section below.