When asked to describe typical Northern Irish weather I often use words like “wet”, “cold” and “damp” but that’s not fair – we do get some sunny days from time to time.  A member sent me a link to an article about golf and health during the week and it made me stop and think.  The article’s title, “Skin cancer – golf’s silent killer” was pretty blunt.  On further inspection I came across some alarming facts:

Skin cancer has reached epidemic levels, with incidence doubling in women and trebling in the last thirty years. Those who play or work in golf are recognised to be at high risk due to three main factors:

When: A round can lead to prolonged sun exposure when UV levels are at their strongest, typically between 11.00am-3.00pm, from April until September


Where: Courses provide little shade, and highly UV reflective surfaces such as grass, water and sand


How: Players tend to avoid reapplying sunscreen to avoid a ‘greasy grip’

The good news is that skin cancer; including melanoma, the most dangerous form of the disease, is mostly preventable by properly protecting your skin from the sun.

A recent survey undertaken by Melanoma Fund, and conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, reported that almost 30% of golfers surveyed never use sun protection when they play golf.

Of the 42% who said they used sunscreen when the weather required it, a massive 72% never reapply it on their way around the course.

The article quoted some of the excuses golfers gave for not using proper sun protection and each one sounded plausible to me, until I read the ripostes.  Here are some of them:

‘I love a tan’  There’s no such thing as a “healthy tan” – the UV rays break down the collagen in your skin and that can leave it looking wrinkled, discoloured and leathery,

‘I don’t want my hands to get greasy!’  To be effective, sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours, even a ‘once a day’ product, as it can easily be rubbed or sweated off.  This should not be an excuse; simply use a chubby stick, an applicator or use a small damp towel to wipe hands clean.

‘Oh, I never use lotions!’ Men’s skincare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world today. Professional golfers look after their skin and take sun protection seriously, and that is both men and woman. They know that having something cut out of their body, is worse than putting something on their skin.

‘I simply forget’ Do you forget to clean your teeth in the morning? Do you forget to put your seatbelt on? Of course you don’t, because you take your health seriously. This excuse simply means you haven’t developed this as a habit. It’s something you could start, right now.

‘I wear it abroad but not at home’ The sun can be just as hot in Ireland as in the rest of Europe.  The weather can also change from rainy to scorching within an hour, so don’t get caught out!

Here are some tips to help protect yourself:

Sun protection

Between April to September you need to be aware of the risks of UV light and remember to follow these five rules when playing, working or spectating:
1. Keep sunscreen (SPF30+), sunglasses, a hat and large umbrella in your summer golf bag.
2. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before teeing off to ensure it is effective.
3. Reapply sunscreen every two hours on sunny days, or around the 9th hole, using a sunscreen applicator to avoid a greasy grip!
4. Use a chubby sunblock stick to protect lips, nose and ears.
5. Check skin every month or so and if you spot any changes, visit your GP immediately.

We really should get into the habit of slipping out the sun cream and slapping it on before we start to swing.  Slip!  Slap! Swing!