Can a Golf Ball Kill You? The Truth Behind the Speculation

can a golf ball kill you

Golf is a beloved sport worldwide, with countless enthusiasts flocking to the greens to enjoy a thrilling round of golf. However, amidst the joy and excitement, a question arises – Can a golf ball kill you? It’s a question that doesn’t get asked often, but the answer may surprise you. 

People usually consider golf a low-risk sport. After all, it doesn’t involve rapid physical contact like football or ice hockey. Nevertheless, that little white sphere can pack a punch. Weighing approximately 1.62 ounces and capable of reaching speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour, the golf ball is no laughing matter when it comes to force.

Such speeds lead us to consider serious implications. Could this object, commonly associated with leisurely weekends and retirement fantasies, actually pose a deadly risk? Let’s find out

The Truth About ‘Can a Golf Ball Kill You?’

The truth about whether a golf ball can kill you is a matter of circumstance. In some cases, it can cause serious injury or even death. This is due to their high density and potential speed, sometimes reaching 170 miles per hour when hit. However, these incidents are not common and tend to happen more often than people realize. The severity of the impact depends on various factors, such as the distance traveled, the club used, and the player’s skill level. 

It’s important to note that golf courses have regulations in place to prevent accidents from happening. For instance, they use signs to warn people of potential hazards and require players to yell “fore” when a ball is flying toward someone. While accidents do happen, golf courses take precautionary measures to minimize the risk of injury. 

Has Anyone Been Killed By a Golf Ball?

Jaden Lawrence Goldfinch, a young man of only 27 years old, tragically lost his life in February 2018 due to a severe head injury he sustained at the Frankton Golf Centre. The incident happened four days prior when he was hit by a flying golf ball. Goldfinch’s death was a shocking reminder of the potential danger that golf balls can pose to players and bystanders alike.

The incident that led to Goldfinch’s death was an unfortunate accident, but it highlights the clear risk that golf balls can pose. The high speeds at which golf balls can travel, coupled with the unpredictability of their trajectory, creates a hazardous situation that could lead to devastating consequences. This danger should not be underestimated, especially in crowded areas where the risk of injury is heightened.  

Unfortunately, Goldfinch is not the only person who has been injured or killed by a golf ball. According to reports, several incidents of golf ball-related injuries have occurred in recent years, with some resulting in fatalities. 

These incidents serve as a sobering reminder that safety should always be a top priority when playing golf, and measures should be taken to minimize the risk of accidents occurring. So, understand golf swing basics, try to learn how to grip your club properly, know when to use what golf clubs, and check wind conditions before playing. 

How Many People Die from Golf Balls on Average?

Golf ball deaths per year reports are not exclusively available. However, this seemingly premium sport does carry some risks, including fatal ones. While complex data on golf ball fatalities remains elusive, anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers could be low but not insignificant.

Various reports and studies indicate accidental deaths due to golf balls are rare. For example, various statistics confirm that about 40,000 people sustain golf ball injuries every year in the United States. However, these studies do not specify the number of fatalities among these cases. 

Often, the cause of injury or death involves a golf ball striking the head. A direct hit in the head with a golf ball can lead to traumatic brain injury or even death in extreme circumstances. In some instances, medical journals have reported fatalities where a golf ball strikes the chest area, causing what’s known as commotio cordis, a lethal disruption of heart rhythm.

Not just golfers, but even spectators and people passing near golf courses face this risk. Let’s consider an example. In 2019, a 6-year-old Utah girl died after a golf ball struck her at a Utah golf course. She was sitting in a cart when the incident occurred, highlighting that such accidents can happen in a variety of settings. 

What Are the Chances of Getting Hit by a Golf Ball?

You may wonder about the likelihood of getting hit with a golf ball while enjoying a day on the course. Although golf generally has a reputation as a safe sport, risks do exist. According to David H. Janda, M.D., director of the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine, the probability of sustaining severe golf ball injuries remains low. Janda estimates that less than 1 percent of players will die from such an accident.

golf spectators watching golf on the course

A golf ball can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when struck by a professional; even amateurs can launch the ball at significant speeds. This high velocity, coupled with the golf ball’s small size, makes it a potentially dangerous projectile. 

Several factors such as course design, player skill, and even wind conditions can influence how likely you are to experience this hazard. Courses with more natural barriers like trees and water hazards often record fewer incidents because these features act as natural buffers.

So, while the chance of sustaining a severe injury or even death from a golf ball is low, it isn’t zero.

What Happens If You Get Hit By a Golf Ball? Types of Injuries 

Getting struck by a golf ball can be more than just a painful experience; it can lead to various types of injuries, some serious. Given the high speeds at which a golf ball can travel, the impact can cause damage ranging from mild to severe. Let’s examine what kinds of injuries one might sustain when hit by a golf ball.

  • First on the list are contusions or bruises. A golf ball traveling at a moderate speed can hit the skin and cause a contusion, often accompanied by swelling. Usually, a simple ice pack and some rest can alleviate the pain and reduce swelling.
  • Fractures present a more severe risk. When a golf ball strikes a bone at high velocity, it can result in a fracture. Such injuries often require immediate medical attention and may even necessitate surgery for proper healing.
  • Concussions represent another concern. When struck by a golf ball to the head with a significant force, a traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion. Symptoms like headaches, nausea, and confusion may occur. Immediate medical evaluation becomes essential in such cases.
  • Eye injuries, though less common, also occur. A direct hit to the eye can result in severe damage, including the loss of vision. Immediate treatment and possible surgical intervention might be necessary.
  • Some severe but rare instances have also included heart-related injuries, specifically commotio cordis. A golf ball hitting the chest area might cause a lethal disruption in heart rhythm. This type of injury requires immediate medical intervention and is often life-threatening.
  • Soft tissue injuries like sprains or strains can happen if you try to dodge a flying golf ball and twist a joint or muscle in the process. These injuries generally need less intense treatment but can still cause discomfort and require some downtime for recovery.

What Should You Do If You Get Hit By a Golf Ball?

Getting hit with golf balls is an unfortunate incident that can happen on a golf course. Here are some pointers on what to do if you get hit by a golf ball:

1. Take immediate action and assess the extent of the injury. If there is bleeding or severe pain, seek medical attention right away.

2. Try to remain calm and avoid panicking, as this can make the situation worse. Panic can lead to poor decisions, which can exacerbate the injury.

3. If possible, move away from the source of the injury to avoid getting hit again. The golfer who hit the ball may not have seen where it went, so moving away from the area can prevent further accidents.

4. Apply first aid to the affected area. If there is bleeding, apply pressure to minimize it. If there are signs of a concussion, monitor the individual’s behavior and seek medical attention immediately.

5. Report the incident to the golf course personnel or the nearest authority. This can help them take preventive measures to avoid such incidents in the future.

6. If you are not seriously injured, resume playing after getting the necessary medical attention. However, be cautious and aware of your surroundings to avoid similar incidents.

7. If you witness someone getting hit by a golf ball, call for help if it is serious. Assess the situation and check for signs of shock or other injuries. Do not move the person unless absolutely necessary.

What Other Ways Do People Die on a Golf Course?

On a golf course, getting hit by a golf ball is not the only way to die. Besides getting a golf ball injury, there are other ways:

  • One way is through lightning strikes, as golf courses are wide open spaces and golfers are exposed to the elements. 
  • Another way is drowning, particularly in water hazards such as ponds and lakes that are commonly found on golf courses. 
  • Injuries from golf cart accidents are also a risk, as these vehicles can go up to 25 miles per hour and accidents can happen when driving over rough terrain. 
  • Also, some golfers may suffer from heart attacks or strokes while playing, as golf can be a physically demanding activity. 
  • Poisonous plants and animals can also be a danger on some golf courses, particularly those that are located in tropical or desert environments. 
  • Golf clubs themselves can be a hazard, as they are made of hard materials and can cause injury if wielded improperly.

The Golf Ball Lethality Debate | Bringing It All Together

So, can a golf ball kill you? I believe now I can leave it to you to decide. 

While there are certainly cases of serious injury and even death resulting from a golf ball strike, such occurrences are relatively rare. The likelihood of being hit by a golf ball and causing fatal injury is low, though not impossible. It is important to remember that a golf course is a potentially dangerous environment, and precautions should always be taken to avoid injury. 

Whether you are a golfer or a passerby, keeping an eye out for flying balls and staying aware of your surroundings can go a long way in preventing accidents. Let me clarify, it does not mean you should not increase your clubhead speed but being cautious and attentive is essential for safety on the golf course.

Don’t forget to follow Golf Ace Nation for more tips and insights on golf safety and culture.


Q1. How many people are killed by golf balls?

Although there’s no specific data on death by golf balls, in 2019, a 6-year-old girl in Utah died when a golf ball hit her while she was in a cart. This shows that accidents like this can happen in different places. Sadly, in February 2018, a 27-year-old named Jaden Lawrence Goldfinch also lost his life due to a bad head injury at the Frankton Golf Centre.

Q2. What to do if you get hit by a golf ball?

If you get hit by a golf ball, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Even if you don’t feel any pain or symptoms, the impact can cause internal injuries that may not be noticeable at first. It’s also important to exchange contact information with the golfer responsible for hitting you, as you may need to file a claim for medical expenses or damages.

Q3. Can I sue someone if they hit me with a golf ball?

Yes, you can sue someone if they hit you with a golf ball, especially if the injury was severe and caused significant harm. However, you need to prove that the golfer was negligent or acted recklessly and that their actions directly caused your injury. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you build a strong case and seek compensation for your damages.

Q4. Is a golfer liable for hitting a person?

Yes, a golfer is liable for hitting a person if they were not exercising reasonable care for the safety of others. This means that they were either knowingly hitting others or were unaware of the surroundings and potential dangers. In such a scenario, the golfer can face legal action for damages caused to the injured party.

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