The number one cause of death on the golf course is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Several factors contribute to this statistic. First, many golfers are older. According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golfers age 65-and-over increased to 5.3 million in 2019. Second, 82 percent of these older golfers are male and males 50 years of age and older are at an increased risk for SCA. Third, because golf courses are often remote and large, getting to an SCA victim quickly is difficult. It may take an EMS vehicle 3 – 5 minutes to arrive at the golf course and getting to the victim may take an additional 3 – 5 minutes. Every minute that passes during a sudden cardiac arrest is another 10 percent closer to death for the victim. Because of these reasons, many golf courses are now starting automated external defibrillator (AED) programs as part of their safety response plans.
In West Des Moines, Iowa, emergency department personnel started an AED awareness campaign to help them decide where AEDs should be placed throughout their community. Golf courses became their number one priority because of the high potential for SCA on any given day. After attending a free AED informational meeting held by the West Des Moines EMS department, Jackie Lark of the Des Moines Golf and Country Club, decided that an AED program needed to be implemented at his club. Two automated external defibrillators were purchased in 1999. One was placed in the maintenance center, the other at the clubhouse. Forty members of the club were trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and on how to use the AED.
CPR is an important skill to have as it helps keep the blow flowing through a victim’s body and brain during sudden cardiac arrest. But an automated external defibrillator is the only way to restart a heart that has gone into ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF is when a person’s heart begins to beat erratically and then stops beating altogether. When this occurs the victim quickly loses consciousness and eventually stops breathing. CPR can help but the only way to prevent brain damage and/or death is to defibrillate (shock) the heart with an AED. Today’s AED units are technologically advanced and tell the rescuer if defibrillation is needed and when to administer it.
Since sudden cardiac arrest events are not uncommon on the golf course, and since quick response with an AED could prevent brain damage or save a life, it’s important that golf courses have at least one AED on-hand and that staff receive both CPR and AED training. Informing golf course patrons where AEDs are located is also vitally important. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Once an AED program has been established, and employees of the club or golf course have been trained in CPR and on the use of the AED, the next most important step is to make sure the patrons of the club or course are aware that an automated external defibrillator is available onsite.
If the club or course has a membership list and/or a newsletter, notices or articles can be included periodically informing everyone of the AED program. Clearly marking the AED unit where it is placed can help too. And for courses that install call or emergency boxes throughout the course, making sure they are clearly visible is of the utmost importance.