I was going to post this news topic in the spring, but the current California drought means cloudless days. We are playing golf during sunny afternoons once the morning fog dissipates. So talking about sun damage is appropriate right now.
Sun damage can lead to skin cancer. We all know that, and the scary messages are in the news more and more these days. The good news is that manufacturers are designing clothing and accessories that will help protect us from sun damage on the golf course. Many golfers are setting a good example for their golf partners. Golfers of all ages, all ethnicities, need to do everything possible to prevent further sun damage.
Many of us are from the generation that basked in the sun for hours as youngsters, slathering ourselves with baby oil laced with iodine. What were we thinking? Well, today many of us are paying the price for that uninformed behavior. If you have ever sat in the waiting room of a dermatologist’s office, you’ve likely seen people’s face and head areas hidden by pretty impressive bandages.
Golfers are exposed to at least four hours of sun during an 18 hole round. More if you add the time at the range warming up. New courses and links courses offer darn little, if any shade. Lucky for members of Sierra View Country Club, we have a lot of big-canopy trees (too many, some say!) which afford us some moments of shade. But there are many things we can do to avoid further sun damage and the dermatologist’s scalpel. Here are a few:
- Become an early riser and get an early tee time. When that dreaded alarm goes off, instead of lamenting the fact that you have to get up and get out the door, pat that smooth, baby face of yours with both hands and be grateful for being a conscientious healthy human. If you cannot get an early tee time, get one later in the day. The most damaging hours of sun are between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon.
- Become a shade hopper. If your cart partner doesn’t know how to seek out shady spots to park the cart, take over the driver’s seat. With the new wearable GPS devices, it’s no longer a matter of having to situate your golf cart right where your ball lies. Lacking shade from trees, situate your cart at an angle that protects the riders. You may feel silly with your cart pointed back toward the tee box rather than toward the green, but feeling silly is a small price to pay for protecting your skin.
- Create your own shade. At Sierra View Country Club, more than half of the golfers walk the course. I’ve done some research on how many walking golfers use an umbrella for protection (not only from the sun but also from the heat of the sun). A high percentage of women members use an umbrella, but very very few men do. Somehow we have to make it cool, make it fashionable, make it macho, for men to use umbrellas too.
- Don’t BURN! It’s sunburn that causes the most dangerous skin cancers. Always wear a sun block and reapply. Yes, I know, reapplying is the hardest to habituate. Sun blocks that contain zinc are supposed to be the most beneficial, but people sometimes avoid them because of how they make us look ghostly. CVS makes a broad-spectrum clear zinc sun block called Clear Zinc Sun Lotion. It’s a 50 spf and it actually goes on clear. There are many other sun blocks with good reviews online. Don’t forget a block for your lips, too.
- Wear a wide brim hat that covers your ears and neck. The men at Sierra View Country Club eschew the umbrellas but more and more of them are wearing wide brim hats. Women are slowly catching on. Someone could make a lot of money designing spiffy wide brim hats for women that won’t blow off or get in the way of the golf swing. Visors are the worst. Your entire scalp is exposed to the sun and just try to protect that area with sun block. Hard to do. The times I’ve sat in the waiting room of the dermatologist’s office, I’ve seen bandaged ears and scalps as often as bandaged noses.
- Make sure your sunglasses are high-quality, and wraparound is the best design. Some golfers say they don’t like wearing sunglasses. Sun is unkind to eyes as well as to skin. Take care of those precious eyes of yours.