Can a Golf Ball Kill You? How Dangerous Are They Really?

It’s a thought that’s passed through most player’s minds when they see a particularly impressive swing from the tee box – can a golf ball kill you? While it’s certainly a compelling thought, is it actually worth losing any sleep over? 

On this page, we’ll dive into the deadly world of golf and all its pitfalls. We’ll discuss the basic physics of how golf balls behave when you hit them and how likely it is that you’ll die if one hits you. 

The Bottom Line – Can a Golf Ball Kill You?

Yes, but it’s exceedingly rare. There are plenty of gruesome stories in the news about people dying while playing, but surprisingly few of these deaths are actually caused by the golf balls themselves. 

Even in cases where a golf ball has struck someone on the head and killed them, these stories have been noteworthy precisely because they’re so unlikely. If you’re losing sleep over the prospect of killing someone by mistake on the fairway, you can probably put that fear to rest.

What Happens When You Strike a Golf Ball?

Considering how fast a golf ball can fly through the air, it’s surprising that golf courses aren’t more deadly places to be. The reality is, however, that the physics involved mitigate the danger considerably.

It Compresses 

A golf ball isn’t exactly a bullet (surprise surprise). They’re not designed to penetrate the things they hit or cause significant damage on impact. When a golf ball is struck by your club’s head, it compresses considerably. 

This goes a long way in reducing the amount of damage it causes when it runs into something that it shouldn’t. If a golf ball does make contact with someone’s head, for example, it compresses a second time. 

This means that the body isn’t absorbing the full force of the impact and therefore is much less likely to sustain lethal damage. Don’t get us wrong – you’ll definitely be unhappy if a golf ball hits you in the head. 

It’s just that: 

  1. It’s very unlikely to happen in the first place. 
  2. Even if it did hit you, it probably won’t kill you. 

Wind Resistance 

When you strike a ball and cause it to fly through the air, even a small amount of wind resistance will reduce its maximum velocity a great deal. With even a little wind blowing against the trajectory of the ball, the chances of it causing significant damage on impact continue to fall. 

Shape 

When something like a bullet or arrow makes impact with a target, their shape helps them cause lethal damage. Their points terminate in a tip that can easily penetrate flesh and kill someone. 

A golf ball – as the more astute among you may have noticed – is sphere-shaped. This means that a huge amount of force moves ‘outwards’ rather than in toward an unlucky golfer, thus reducing the chances of them dying considerably.

Max Recorded Speed 

So, what’s the max recorded speed for a golf ball? The fastest golf ball trajectory ever recorded was achieved by the famous player, Kyle Berkshire, in 2021. His impressive swing achieved a max speed of 233.4 miles per hour.

While speeds like this are certainly awe-inspiring, your average golfer won’t come anywhere near to this kind of speed. Around 130 miles per hour is a reasonable ballpark figure for the average golf ball speed. 

Once you factor in other considerations such as wind resistance and golf ball compression, the fear of death evaporates as quickly as Berkshire’s world record! 

How Likely is it You’ll Get Hit By a Golf Ball?

So we’ve established that death by golf ball is relatively unlikely, but what are your chances of getting hit by one at all? This all comes down to how you’re behaving on the course.

Consider the following questions:

Where are You Playing? 

Are you playing on a private course at someone’s villa or somewhere more public? How are each of the holes set up? How close are you to other people? These are all factors that can impact your chances of getting hit with a golf ball.

Are Others on the Course?

If you’re the only group playing – or indeed you’re just playing with one partner – your chances of getting hit will be far lower than someone playing on a busy course. Keep an eye out for other players and be respectful of their proximity. A well-managed course should stagger parties far from each other to avoid inconveniences and dangerous playing conditions. 

Are You Tracking Whose Turn it is?

One easy way to cause unwanted collisions is to lose track of whose turn it is. Make sure you’re all on the same page about which play rules you’re following and stick to them carefully. 

What to do If You Hit the Ball Stray

If you’ve ever wondered what it means when people shout ‘fore!’ on the golf course, this is why. If you want to warn someone that a stray ball is heading their way, call out ‘fore!’ as loudly and as clearly as you can. 

In most cases, this should be more than enough to give them fair warning.

The Silent Golf Killers – Common Golfing Injuries 

In this section, we explore some far more harmful consequences to playing golf. They’re not always life-threatening, but it’s certainly important to take them seriously. 

Back Pain 

Many pros suffer from complications with their back after playing for many years. Regular massage, stretching, and physiotherapy are recommended if you want to protect your body.

Joints

The above is also true of your joints. The wrists, elbows, and knees can all suffer from regular swings at a golf ball. With the right corrective techniques, however, you should be able to keep your joints healthy for as long as possible.  

Final Thoughts 

While a golf ball can indeed kill you if it hits you hard enough, you’d have to be exceptionally unlucky for this to happen to you. The chances of even being hit by a golf ball in the first place are relatively low and deaths caused by golf balls are notably uncommon.