Golf legend wants more defibrillators…

Should ALL golf clubs have a defibrillator?

Former Ryder Cup Captain and TV pundit Bernard Gallacher survived a cardiac arrest in 2013 and following this news, the theme of golf and defibrillators have been pushed into the spotlight.

In addition, we ourselves at The Social Golfer have seen how these machines save lives. We hope that the renewed awareness of how they can prevent premature deaths, will make a difference to many golfers lives…

Bernard Gallacher - Ryder Cup Captain v4

How Bernard Gallacher’s life was saved?

In Bernard Gallacher’s case, it is a remarkable story of being in the right place at the right time, if that’s the best way to phrase it, for having a cardiac arrest.

Gallacher suffered an SCA at the Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen, Scotland and three nurses at the hotel saved his life with a defibrillator.

The former Ryder Cup captain, 64, was attending a corporate dinner event and was to deliver an after-dinner speech when the incident occurred.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the nurses at the event, they were able to save his life and Gallacher made a full recovery with no lasting effects.

The immediate action and shock of a defibrillator was crucial in the outcome of Bernard’s survival.

It is because of this that Bernard and his family have decided to launch a defibrillator campaign and will be championing to have defibrillators accessible at golf courses throughout the UK.

Why is golf a vulnerable sport when it comes to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

You only have to look at the facts and figures to see that golf as a sport is one of the most vulnerable activities when it comes to heart-related problems due to the nature of the game, the demographics, and the amount of time players spend on a course.

In the UK, according to

  • 12% of the adult population play golf (5.8 million),
  • 7% of which play regularly (3.4 million)

Whilst elsewhere, it has been reported that golfers spend an average of 4-6 hours a day on the golf course. 

US AED (Automated External Defibrillator) distributor Zoll Medical say the average age of an SCA victim is about 65 years old.

Whilst 62% of golfers in the UK are aged 35+.

Therefore, it stands to reason that golfers are at high risk just by the numbers.

The average time of day for someone to have a heart attack is between 6-11am, which is when golfers usually take to the course for their morning round.

Around 4 million people attend golf clubs each year whilst only a third of clubs have a defibrillator on site.

This is something that must change to ensure the safety of ALL golfers who are out on the fairway.

Why should golf clubs prioritise defibrillators?

Given the demographics of their members and the facts on SCA, it is imperative that golf and country clubs make having a defibrillator on site – their top priority.

If a defibrillator is used within three to five minutes after a cardiac arrest, the chance of survival is increased from 6% to 74%. If effective CPR is provided immediately after an SCA, it can double a victim’s chance of survival. Ambulance response times to cardiac incidents is approximately 8-14 minutes.

However, if there is an incident way out on the 10th hole of a golf course, it is going to take significantly longer for paramedics to reach a cardiac arrest victim. It is vital that all golf courses invest in a defibrillator for this very reason alone.

The health benefits of regular golf are multiple…

Golf’s powerful combination of stress-busting exercise, fresh air and camaraderie can help promote long-term heart health’ (2014).

Playing regular golf has excellent benefits to you and your heart health, it can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and reduces your chances of suffering from stroke and diabetes.

  • The amount of walking undertaken whilst playing a round of golf is extremely healthy.
  • An 18-hole game could be burning up to 900 calories as the combined walking, toning, muscle strengthening, and carrying or pulling off your golf bags whilst you also could be walking around five to six miles.
  • The Department of Health recommends that we should be doing around 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week to keep our hearts healthy and our muscles strong.
  • This can of course include walking, and that to truly work your heart you should be walking at a pace that brings out a mild sweat at least. Golf is the perfect way to attain those 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise to help strengthen your heart.

Which Golf Clubs have a Defibrillator?

This is not immediately obvious when you arrive at a golf club but, why not take a look at the nearest golf course to you, using The Social Golfer, the unique golf course guide is written by golfers, for golfers and will help you locate your nearest course, no matter where you are in the world.

Unfortunately, an SCA, can strike at any time and can be unexpected, therefore, it is vital that golf clubs have a defibrillator on site as quite literally, every minute counts.

Especially as some golf courses can become quite remote, and the journey time for help can be quite long, which is not ideal should a cardiac event occur.

Now it’s just about making sure that all golfers are ‘heart safe’ for peace of mind of all when taking on an early morning round of 18!


By Ian Mullins