What's the worst that could happen on a golf course? Consider these 5 dangerous situations

From lightning to thunder-punches, disaster can strike on the golf course.
Lightning is one of several rare but potentially extremely dangerous situations one can encounter on the golf course.

Golf is one of the safest and healthiest recreational activities in existence. The Golf & Health Project estimates that golfers can live an average of up to five years longer than non-golfers.

But there are exceptions.

"Our last 3 holes the water sprinklers came on. [S]oaked us, our gear and phones," read one recent golf course review that came through the GolfPass system. "All we got out of the [clubhouse was] 'Sorry about that.'"

If you're not being careful or respectful, misadventure could be lurking just around the next dogleg, and something serious - much more so than an accidental sprinkler-soaking, or indifferent customer service - could befall you on the course. And I'm not talking about four-putts, either.

Getting hit by a golf ball

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Tom McKibbin of Northern Ireland checks on a spectator after he was struck by his ball on the 4th hole during Day One of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club on September 14, 2023 in Virginia Water, England.

For the avid golfer, it's almost a rite of passage, albeit an uncomfortable one. About a dozen years ago, during a late-afternoon round at Arcadian Shores Golf Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., I was plunked by a stranger's half-skulled, half-shanked wedge shot from an adjacent fairway. The guy who hit it yelled "Fore" about half a second before the ball caught me in the calf. Luckily it only stung for a few hours, but I did have a semi-dimpled scab to show for it.

During a team trip, one of my high-school teammates was addressing his second shot on the 10th hole at True Blue Golf Club, also in the Myrtle Beach area, when a hard-hit drive from the tee grazed his right cheek and slammed into the turf next to his ball. The offending golfer thought my buddy was out of range. Had the ball flown a couple of millimeters farther - a puff of wind's worth - there would have been a serious incident.

Animal encounters gone wrong

Enjoying beautiful natural surroundings is one of the greatest things about golf. But those natural surroundings can bite. Just ask any of several Florida golfers who have lost digits or limbs to alligators. Snakes are also a concern across the Sun Belt, especially in Florida and the deserts of Arizona and California. An Alabama golfer required six bags of anti-venom to survive a rattlesnake bite in June. It's a reminder to never go into the woods to search for your golf ball without a club in hand.

Bugs can be more than a nuisance on golf courses. In August, an Arizona golf course maintenance worker was stung 2,000 times after accidentally disturbing a hive. Four months earlier, a swarm of bees caused a group to hit the deck during the PGA Tour's Mexico Open at Vidanta.

Flipping a golf cart

A golf cart is a tool, not a toy. Capable of reaching speeds of 20-plus miles per hour, the seatbelt-free ride can turn from fun to fraught if the driver is not careful. Go-Kart-style racing can be tempting, but dangerous. In 2016, four-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Kisner was temporarily suspended from his home Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C. for racing golf carts down a hill at the venerable club in a video produced by VICE Sports. That's a slap on the wrist compared to the painful endings other golf cart hijinks have had.

On-course fisticuffs

I've never been party to an on-course melee, but I saw one very nearly break out at Keney Park Golf Club in Hartford, Conn., in June of 2023. My father and I were putting out on the par-4 8th, when two foursomes - one on the nearby par-4 7th tee and the other approaching the par-3 6th green - got into a shouting match. Best I could tell over the expletives, the trailing group had hit into the others one too many times. One tall hothead had to be physically restrained by his buddies before things calmed down.

Of course, there have been several on-course confrontations that have turned physical lately, with video to prove it. Some are pretty cringe-worthy but they're easy to find via Google search. Movie lovers will recall the classic scene from Happy Gilmore.

Mother Nature's fury

Lightning struck a green at Royal Liverpool Golf Club during the 1967 Open Championship.

Lightning is not to be trifled with on a golf course. Some golfers have had to learn that fact the hard way, with sometimes tragic results. On the flip side, Lee Trevino has been incredibly lucky, having been hit by lightning three times in his life, including during the 1975 Western Open. In combination with his six major championships and dozens of other pro victories, that's quite a resume, and only partially the sort other golfers would dream of. Nowadays, most reputable courses are equipped with lightning-sensitive systems that will sound an alarm when electricity is too close for comfort. Best to stop playing and wait until the coast is clear, especially since manufacturers don't make 1-irons anymore.

Got a story to tell about these or other types of golf course misadventure? Let us know in the comments.

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Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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What's the worst that could happen on a golf course? Consider these 5 dangerous situations