Man golfing as the sun sets.

Golfing and Skin Cancer

One of my most embarrassing moments occurred on a golf course on Long Island.

My ego was bruised and my face was burned

I was out on the links with three Major League Baseball executive types. I was not exactly confident in my ability and as I lined up my tee shot on the first hole, I felt the dread of what was about to come. On my tee shot, I slipped and actually hit the divot (that’s a clump of mud-grass) and the golf tee further than I hit the ball (which is not the object of the game, I assure you). The day just got worse after that. I came home with a bruised ego and worse yet, a bad sunburn. Most of my day was spent searching for my ball in the woods and regretting that I had failed to put on sunscreen.

Golfing and skin cancer: they go hand in glove

Now, my bad golf play was unavoidable that day. I am not a gifted golfer and even on my best days, I am average. The other unfortunate circumstance of that day, my sunburn, could have been avoided if I had just done a few things differently. Golf courses are beautiful places: the trees, the green grass, the birds (not birdies) are amazing, but golfers have always been disproportionately at risk for skin cancer due to sun exposure. So what can we do to protect our skin, if not better our golf game?

My top tips for protecting yourself on the golf course

Be mindful of the sun

Reserve tee times when the sun is lowest in the sky. Early morning and late afternoon tee times are best as the sun is most powerful between 10:00 am-2:00 pm.

Limit your exposure

Consider only golfing nine holes or on a three-par course. Avoid more than eighteen holes in any one day or weekend. Less time in direct sunlight is a good practice. Par-three holes are nearly always five shots for me, anyway.

Ride in style

Consider renting a cart with a top. Riding in a covered cart will provide some coverage from the sun and allow you to get to your ball more quickly (if you can find it).

Be sun smart

Bring plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating or above. Offer some to your foursome and others, if needed. Make sure to reapply. Sweating can limit its effectiveness. I would reapply after a couple of hours.

Cover up

Wear a broad-rimmed hat that protects your ears.

Dotting the eyes, crossing the tees

Wear sunglasses with SPF protection.

Prepare your outfit

Wear UPF protective clothing. These shirts are more lightweight than ever and many offer SPF 50 protection. The ones that I wear do not inhibit my range of motion or restrict me in any way.

Don't forget the lips

Wear SPF lip balm.

Just a touch of advocacy

Encourage the club or course to dispense sunscreen at various holes and offer it prominently at the clubhouse. If the clubhouse also sells golf clothing, inquire about the possibility of UPF protective clothing and other sun protection products being offered.

Looking out for the greater good

Look out for others in your foursome and your caddies. Make sure that everyone is protected. For many, good skincare practices are not common practice. A gentle, wise word can inform others and lead them in the right direction.

Don't let the clouds deceive you

Also, remember that damaging ultraviolet rays can penetrate cloud cover. Gray days can still result in sunburns.

Have fun, and protect yourself!

Golfing can be a wonderful way to get great exercise and breathe fresh air! It’s a social game that builds friendships and is a great way to network. I believe that a little sun preparation and planning can make your time on the links a wonderful, safe experience, and protect you from skin cancer. Fore!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.