July 21, 2006
In July 1996 I played a round of golf at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links, on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in northern California.
It was a great experience, not least of which because the weather was so delightful.
The sun burned off the early morning fog, but the temperature never rose above 72 degrees during the entire afternoon. I wore khaki slacks, and for most of the round kept a light sweater vest on against the ocean breezes.
During this past week, however, we had several days of brutal reminders that the Delmarva Peninsula is simply not the Monterey Peninsula, especially in July.
I played in the two-day Member-Member tournament at Shawnee Country Club on July 15-16, and began sweating as soon as I walked toward the driving range at 8 a.m. Saturday morning for the too aptly described warm-up. Several other competitors were already drenched in their own shirts and shorts, after having hit no more than a dozen or so golf balls.
I soon left the range and walked over to the putting green. Beads of sweat ran down my nose as I lined up my putts. The one good thing about that reaction to the warm weather was that the falling drops made it easy to tell if my set-up to the ball was where I wanted it.
We began our first round at 9 a.m., and I changed my golf glove after the second hole. I then began alternating several pairs during the round, in a mostly vain attempt to keep my hands relatively dry in the remarkable heat and humidity.
My playing partners and I took every opportunity to drink during the round. We filled our water bottles at every water station, and bought soft drinks from the cart girl every time she drove near us.
Some of us also discussed the distinguishing elements of our golfing experience, compared to Michele Wie, the phenomenal young golfer–other than the fact she’s a far better player, of course.
Apparently we could handle the heat a little better than she did. On July 14, Wie was forced to withdraw from the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, near Davenport Iowa, due to a bout with heat exhaustion.
According to a statement attributed to her agent, Ross Berlin, “She suffered a number of different symptoms, including stomach pains, nausea, dizziness and breathing problems which worsened as the round continued.”
Wie’s withdrawal was a shame for the tournament, but it should also serve as a useful reminder of the very real risks golfers face in deciding to play their favorite sport when it’s this hot and humid.
The Rookery’s head golf professional, Butch Holtzclaw, says that his advice for playing in high heat is to “Hide inside, instead” preferably in a cool air-conditioned room.
Otherwise, Cape Region golfers can help ward off heat exhaustion by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic liquids before, during, and after their rounds. If your playing partner begins complaining about dry mouth, exhaustion, or any of the symptoms Wie suffered, he should be escorted out of the sun and off the course. Have him sip some water on the way back to the clubhouse, and make sure he’s safe.
Heat stroke can come on far more quickly than heat exhaustion, and it’s also more serious. Look for dilated pupils, hot, dry, red skin, or if his sweating has stopped, or if he has trouble breathing. It should be treated as an emergency condition, well before the golfer loses consciousness.
In fact, whenever the Cape Region goes through these hot spells, golfers who usually walk their rounds could do themselves and their playing companions a big favor by using a golf cart. Riding instead of walking should help slow down the body’s reaction to playing in hot weather, and will also be really handy in case someone succumbs.
You can always make up for not walking that day when the next cold front mercifully arrives.