Pedestrian, polite, gentile. A “game”, not a sport. Mirthless. The dullest pastime known to man. A game for retirees and footballers whose knees have packed in. About as harmful to your health as a two Haliboranges dissolved in a camomile tea.
While golfers might know the above to be untrue, it’s an understandable point of view.
Having played since aged 12 (30 years and counting), those that know me would say it’s made me old before my time. Debatable. What’s undeniable though is the toll the game has taken on my face. And there were no “health warnings on the packet” when I first started playing.
Growing up in the west of Scotland, the only time we were aware there actually was a “sun” was on the even darker than usual days we experienced during a solar eclipse. August meant (joy of joys) a sleeveless pullover. Any other month and golf was endured through layers of lambswool and unventilated rubbery waterproofs (that left you wetter on the inside than you were on the outside). Ask someone what they thought of “Goretex” and they might deduce you were referring to some X-certificate horror film sub-genre.
Who would have thought growing up golfing in that those grey skies, that the scene was being set for a battle to be raged 30 years hence.
My own road to Damascus started after innocently asking a good friend why he was preparing to play looking like something Derek Acorah was hunting in “Most Haunted”. My friend had swathed his face in opaque white sunblock. Reason? His dermatologist had put him in a high risk category for sun-damaged skin. Men over 40 have the highest exposure to UV radiation and the sun (it seems), is no respector of golfing reputations. Major winners Padraig Harrington, Tom Kite and Steve Elkington all having brushes with skin cancer at relatively young ages. My friend’s precautions were well founded.
Subsequently, finding myself working in the cosmetic sector, it became not uncommon to find myself mid-round having conversations laced with intrigue with playing partners about their faces
“So.....” the conversations would invariably begin (usually about the 10th hole), “... what’s all this botox stuff about then?”. More often than not, these bashful opening gambits would unveil more than a passing interest in treatment of some kind.
Occasionally, my role of confidante would require me to offer an opinion, or even a diagnosis. However, with no medical training this would be like a 28-handicapper imparting sage-like wisdom on a new cure for the dreaded shank.
Nonetheless, from my first conversation with my ghost-like partner, to innumerable “ahem” conversations with fellow golfers, and to my own personal experiences, I wanted to share what every golfer should know.
That is that golfers are as vain as the rest of us. That many are concerned the game has made wretched their appearance, that they don’t know what they can do about it, what preventative measures they could take - or should have taken.
What every golfer should know....
Golfer’s Enemy No 1 : The Sun and Actinic Keratosis / Solar Keratosis
It’s perverse, but just when we enjoy playing golf the most, that’s when we’re doing most damage. I’m “only” 45, but have become increasingly conscious of the sun’s mal-effects.
Chief amongst them, Actinic Keratosis. Not a term you’re likely to have heard, but you really should be aware of it. If you’re in your 40s, chances are you already have some AKs. Actinic Keratosis are often imperceptible. They’re characterised by tiny (<5mm) areas of skin that might peel a lot, or just feel rough to the touch. They might be on your face, scalp, arms or ears. No one will notice and it’s likely you’ll ignore them too. It’s important to identify them though as around 1 in 100 AKs develop into basal cell carcinomas (skin cancer).
Fix it #1
Get a £million sponsorship deal and have your sponsor’s logo on your hat. Or, just wear a hat. Think back to the 80s. What was on Jack Nicklaus’s head in the ’86 Masters? What did Seve have on his raven main in the iconic photo of the ’84 Open? Nothing. No one wore a hat in those days.
No one wants to look as daft as Rory Sabbatini, but if you’re “hat” is just a “cap”, make sure too you apply sunblock (not sunscreen) to unprotected areas – particularly your ears.
Fix it #2
If your dermatologist has diagnosed AKs, be prepared for a traumatic 2-3 months. The “go to” treatment are topical chemotherapy drugs such as Efudix. They will leave the area very red and raw before crusting over. Here’s a picture of me about 3 weeks into treatment. It got a lot worse. On the downside, get treated on your forehead and you might open up a new income stream for yourself as a Gorbachev lookalike.
Golfer’s Enemy No 2 : Premature lines & wrinkles
It’s the sun again that’s the biggest culprit. How many times on the course have you found yourself with screwed up eyes following the ball, or just trying to scrutinise a heavily-breaking putt? Years of doing so will all be adding to creases and folds around your crow’s feet.
Fix it #1
Dead simple – release your inner Ian Poulter and wear sunglasses. Ignore the chiding of your wife and fellow members. Every time you peel off those Oakley’s post-round in years to come, you’ll see yourself - and not some old guy who’s taken over your face.
Fix it #2
You’ve heard of it, you’ve thought of it, you know it could help. Botox is no longer a stranger to many men. It really can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Golfer’s Enemy No 3 : Thread veins and the wind
As if golfers needed another reason to hate playing in the wind...
The wind can be almost as damaging to the appearance of your face as the sun. If you find you suffer from fine thread veins around your nose or on your cheeks, it doesn’t follow that your hip flask is more Bowmore than Bovril. I’m teetotal and my own nose was beset with thread veins.
Fix it #1
Believe it or not, high factor sun block can also protect you against wind damage too. Try that, in addition to moisturising as part of your skincare regime
Fix it #2
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is a fantastic cosmetic treatment to rid yourself of small broken capillaries. It works by firing highly focussed and concentrated light blasts at the offending area. The veins will darken at first and fade away within 2-3 weeks. It’s not pain-free, but it’s not as painful as missing a 3-footer to get into the buffer zone.
Golfer’s enemy No 4 - The Gloveless Hand
This one’s perhaps a little more for lady golfers concerned about their hands (you can always tell a ladies age from her hands apparently).
Here’s a test for you. If you wear a glove on your left hand, hold both hands out in front of you. I’ll bet your right hand looks “older”. More brown marks? More age spots? Wait. Now pinch the skin on the back of your left hand. See how quickly it reverts? Now do the same on your right hand. Yes, you’ve got the hand of an 80-year old because it’s been exposed all those rounds.
Fix it #1
Unless you’re a boxer, goalkeeper or a minor felon, there’s not a lot of reason to be wearing gloves on both hands during the summer, but, it is an option!
Fix it #2
If you are concerned about how the passage of time has affected your hand(s), there are cosmetic treatments that can help. Again IPL can remove brown marks and other pigmentation.
Read all this and you might think, “aaah, I think I’ll just stick to playing Augusta on my PlayStation”..... but think of everything else you’d miss out on. Happy golfing!