Did you know that golf courses are one of the most dangerous places to have a serious heart problem, and less than 25% of golf venues have the right equipment to deal with one?
An annual report produced by accountancy experts Hillier Hopkins found that nearly two-thirds of golf club members in the UK are over the age of 50, with a third over 61. Given that two-thirds of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest occur in those aged 64 or older, the likelihood of a golfer suffering a cardiac arrest while playing is higher than almost every other sport or recreational activity. Factor in golf-specific limitations to the potential response time of first aid at a golf club and you start to understand why this subject should perhaps be given more attention than it currently gets…
Research from first aid global leaders, Aero Healthcare reveals that more than 700 golf courses across the UK have already installed Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and registered their device with a national defibrillator database. But this research also reveals that well over 2000 UK golf clubs without such a device installed. Also, according to CMAE Commercial Director, Craig Cotterill, this simply isn’t enough:
“Personally, having an AED installed at your golf club should be a requirement, not an option. There is clearly still a big awareness and education effort to be made with those responsible for investing in this equipment and the message needs to be consistent, because if it isn’t then the reality is that many clubs won’t decide to act until it happens to one of their own.”
The CMAE (Club Managers Association of Europe) is an organisation that provides industry-leading education and certification for club managers across golf, tennis, sailing and other private members clubs across Europe and the MENA regions, and part of that professional development training covers looking after the health and wellbeing of their members and guests. Mr Cotterill added that there is a lot that he believes golf clubs could be doing for themselves to get an AED installed including running an annual golf competition to raise the money from their own membership base.
Defibrillation & Specific Golf Challenges
We have highlighted that the number of golf venues with access to AED’s is too low, but we must now look at their potential effectiveness when you consider how little time you have to actually deliver a life-saving shock. There are over 30,000 OHCA’s (Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests) in the UK every year, of which only 5% survive, but being able to deliver a shock within five minutes can lead to a potential 5-fold increase in probability of survival. For every minute over that crucial first five minutes, the chances of survival drop by 10% and this is where the challenges with golf venues arises.
When it comes to golf clubs, delivery of a live saving shock is not necessarily that simple. Golf venues by their nature can be remote, the topography and course design can limit or even prevent access to all forms of emergency service and cardiac arrests could be happening multiple miles away from the clubhouse, and potentially the lifesaving AED installed there.
Warren Harris, a PGA teaching professional and former club professional at both public and private member’s clubs across the South of England believes that the adoption of defibrillators is a positive step but had this to say about the elements they cannot control.
“Having access to a defibrillator and CPR-trained staff at the clubs I have worked at has definitely been a step forward as far as member and guest safety, but a significant percentage of the clubs I have visited and worked at have areas of the course that are not convenient to get to and do not have secure buildings such as halfway houses to store an additional AED, which leaves anyone unlucky enough to have a cardiac emergency in those locations at significant risk.”
Golf clubs are developing their own lifesaving solutions to this potentially fatal problem though; Royal Dornoch recently became the first golf club in the world to equip all their buggies with defibrillators. This proactive move will not only help those travelling in the buggy or in the same group, but also any nearby golfers who may suffer an OHCA on the course. Royal Dornoch are a great candidate for this as they have a traditional out and back links course, where the farthest reaches of the course are nearly 2 miles from the clubhouse, the terrain is rugged and the weather is often extreme, all of which make the likelihood of delivering a shock within that magic five minute timeframe a hard task for the most responsive of clubhouse staff armed with a buggy and an AED.
However, not every golf club has the financial resources to fit every buggy with a defibrillator. So, what else can be done to ensure all corners of golf courses are medical safe havens and within easy reach of defibrillator?
Installing a defibrillator in a golf clubhouse or resort hotel is a great way of ensuring the fastest possible lifesaving treatment is available should an OHCA occur in or near any secure buildings on the property. In 2014, Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher suffered a sudden cardiac arrest as he prepared to make an after-dinner speech in Aberdeen. He survived thanks to the swift actions of guests and a shock from a defibrillator and went on to make a full recovery.
It was because of this near-fatal experience that amateur golfer Craig Bowes also survived a cardiac arrest as he was about to play a round at Bathgate Golf Club in 2015. On that occasion, staff saved Bowes’ life by delivering a shock with a defibrillator that had been donated by none other than Gallacher himself. Both the Bernard Gallacher incident and the Craig Bowes incident shared a commonality and that was that in both scenarios, the subject person was lucky enough to be in or near the clubhouse defibrillator at the time of the cardiac arrest.
There are then the OHCS’s that occur away from the clubhouse. Here are some of the measures golf clubs and resorts could take to ensure maximum defibrillator access should the worst happen out on the links:
§ Equip halfway houses: Halfway houses provide a refreshment break for golfers, generally at the midpoint of a round. These offer an ideal location for housing a defibrillator so that golfers don’t have to wait for one to arrive from a clubhouse, thus drastically reducing waiting time.
§ Provide mobile defibrillators: Defibrillators are not only attached to a building, structure, or wall, they are also available in a rescue backpack option. This allows an AED and vital accessories to be transported in a backpack to any location including isolated areas on a golf course by greenkeepers and marshals, for example.
§ Provide staff training: Ensuring course staff such as greenkeepers, marshals, and caddies, are trained in CPR and carry a defibrillator will boost the chances of survival for an OHCA victim. Doing this will mean multiple defibrillators will be in situ around a golf course so that treatment can be delivered in the quickest possible time.
So, having covered what a club can do to mitigate loss of life, what can the individual who is often present at the time of these incidents do to ensure they are giving their playing partner the best chance of survival despite the fact that in most cases they will not be trained in first aid? While the devices are designed to be easy to use, Aero Healthcare have identified the significant value in educating golf club members on confident use of an AED and have provided a 4-minute video that will provide first responders with the skills and confidence they need to save a life with the assistance of an AED.