One of golf’s fast-moving hazards

Contributing Columnist

The worst accident I have ever seen on a golf course occurred when a golf cart overturned. I have seen people hit by a golf ball, a man struck by lightening on a golf course, but the cart incident w

as the most damaging.

Golf carts aren’t just used on fairways anymore; as we look for cleaner, greener methods to get around, golf carts are appearing on residential streets. However, be cautious, carts require more care than you may think.

According to research, golf cart injuries have soared recently. The Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, reported that the number of cart related trips to the emergency room jumped from an estimated 5,500 in 1990 to 13,500 in 2006, a 132 percent increase. The higher injury rates were among males ages 10 to 19 and those over 70, according to a

study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am not talking about scratches from falling into a sand bunker. The wounds include concussions, fractures, even hemorrhages.

With the advent and increase of retirement communities and suburban culs-de-sac, battery-powered carts are a cheap, energy-efficient way to get around the neighborhood. In the streets, drivers are more likely to bump against the pavement or, worse, collide with a car. More than half the incidents tallied in these studies took place on the golf course. Carts, in addition, are getting faster; some go 25 miles per hour but still lack basic protections like seat belts and side rails.

The studies’ researchers offer sensible recommendations, like mandating a minimum driving age of 16, braking slowly and wearing a helmet while riding, which probably won’t find agreement with members of country clubs. Most important, drivers shouldn’t be casual. Golf may be a game, but carts can be dangerous.

The most flagrant abuse is driving a cart with one leg hanging outside the confines of the cart. It was that occasion which resulted in the worst accident I witnessed on a course. The driver, leg outside the vehicle, made a sharp turn, causing the cart to turn over. The driver and passenger suffered multiple leg fractures and concussions. Neither party ever returned to normal walking or playing golf. Be careful!

• • •

I have been asked by a reader to tell her what were the worst played holes I ever witnessed. Well, here goes:

1. Bobby Clampett’s 8 at Troon in the 1982 British Open, blowing a seven-stroke lead.

2. Tom Weiskopf’s 13 on the 12th hole during the 1980 Masters after putting five balls in the water.

3. Greg Norman taking an “X” in the 1989 British Open and being disqualified.

4. Finally, the one-putt I made for a 13 during the qualifying round of the club championship at my club on Long Island.

• • •

Another reader inquired about the actual meaning of the Stimpmeter in measuring the speed of greens.The Stimpmeter was invented by Edward Stimpson, a Massachusetts banker and a very fine player in his own right. Stimpson, while attending the U.S. Open in 1934 at Oakmont, watched Gene Sarazan putt off the green on a wickedly fast green. It provided Stimpson with the impetus to create a device to actually measure the speed of greens. It took the USGA four decades to show interest in Stimpson’s meter, but finally in 1978, six years before his death, a modified version of his prototype became the standard tool for measuring green speeds.

The Stimpmeter today is a 36-inch strip of aluminum with a groove running down the center. The strip is laid flat on the green, put a ball in the notch at one end then raise that end until the ball rolls out of the notch, down the groove and onto the green. The distance the ball rolls — in feet — is a measure of the speed of the green. I believe anything above 10 is ludicrous, unputtable, expensive to maintain and nothing to brag about. The pursuit of maximums instead of optimums is a sickness of modern life.


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