Protecting Your Skin While You Golf

Disclaimer: This article is going to be more serious than all of my others, and I am going to sound like my mother.

Golf is a great way to spend time outdoors, but unfortunately golfers expose themselves to the sun in the process. Skin cancer is a major problem for golfers, and you should be protecting yourself every time you are out on the golf course. I know many of us don’t want to think about this, but it’s important to discuss.

I am really disappointed that the PGA Tour has done almost nothing to promote skin cancer awareness. They have a platform to help educate golfers, and they’re not using it.

Here are some sobering statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime
  • Melanoma incidence rates have been increasing for the last 30 years
  • Approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma

Skin cancer is one of the cancers that has been linked to lifestyle choices. There is no debate that exposing yourself to the sun without protection will increase your chances of developing this terrible disease. I take this very seriously; I want to live a long and healthy life with my wife and little boy! Having a tan might look nice, but you are doing damage to your skin in the process.

So what can we do to protect ourselves on the course?

NEVER play golf without a hat. Your face is the most vulnerable area, and it needs a physical barrier. In the months where the sun is stronger I wear a bucket hat so that my whole face, ears, and neck are protected. Personally I like this one from Coolibar. It has built in SPF protection, and is extremely lightweight so it doesn’t bother me while I swing. There are a number of options out there; make sure you get one that has SPF protection built in to it.


You should always apply sunscreen about 15-20 minutes before you are going outside. More importantly, you should be re-applying every 2 hours. This is hard during a round, and you don’t want to get that oily feeling on your hands, and then on your grips.

I found a product last year called Golfer Skin that a lot of PGA Tour players are using. I like it for a few reasons. The first is that it has zinc in it, which is a physical barrier. It applies very easily, and does not leave residue on your hands or skin. The stick version makes it easy to re-apply during a round without getting anything on your hands. Additionally, it does not create a mess when you sweat.

I also carry a spray sunscreen with me. I like this product from Banana Boat. It goes on easily and is very sweat-resistant.

I have known people with skin cancer, and it is no picnic. There are some very invasive procedures to remove growths from your skin that are less than pleasant. I am not trying to scare everyone; I just think it’s something that every golfer should be aware of.

The sun is strongest between 10am – 2pm, so if possible you should avoid it completely during those hours. You should also be monitoring your skin for any changes, especially if you have moles. I go to the dermatologist every year to get my skin checked, and you should too. They can spot things that you won’t pick up.

Please think about all of this the next time you tee it up!

Image by Juhan Sonin/CC BY 2.0
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