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VietNamNews

Teed Off (May.19 2013)

Update: May, 19/2013 - 02:07

with Robert Bicknell

Judging from the higher temperatures and daily downpours here in HCM City, it's safe to say that the rainy season has arrived and that presents a different set of obstacles for golfers in Viet Nam.

Summer golf in the country has some basic rules of thumb – use sunscreen, dress in lightweight light colour clothes, drink lots of water and, if you hear thunder – run like hell for shelter.

Unfortunately, it's this last bit of info which seems the most ignored here in Viet Nam, but we'll get to this a bit later.

Topping the list of important things is keep drinking water throughout the round. You can really never get enough of it especially when it's hot and very humid outside. While high temperatures are easy to recognise, what does you in is the "Heat Index" which is a combination of temperature and humidity levels. For example, 32oC with 85 per cent humidity results in a heat index which feels like 49oC.

Yes, you read that right and it explains why you are staggering off the golf course feeling like a wrung out dishrag. It also explains why you need to keep drinking water out there. You'll be sweating like a race horse.

Failure to do this can result with a trip to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Heat stroke and dehydration CAN kill you and it almost did me in a few years ago. Let me put it to you this way… if your urine is dark yellow, you're dehydrated and need to drink water until the stream is clear or very light yellow. Failure to do this can get you in huge trouble.

I am also surprised that so many people cannot accept the basic scientific premise that dark colours absorb heat while light colours reflect it. Need proof? Sit on a black leather seat in the summer sun. White is a bit cooler… Ergo, your clothing should be light colour lightweight fabrics.

Sunscreen has become commonly accepted practice here in Viet Nam as the ghost white faces walking toward the first tee will attest. My advice, follow the crowd and use it. Lots of it. Don't skimp on this. Get the best you can afford and use it liberally.

Skin cancer is a definite risk in this area of the world and I have had a few "suspicious" spots removed from my arms over the years, while one golf pro friend of mine usually has 3-4 removed each year – despite the fact he uses buckets of sunscreen.

Don't be foolish… use sunscreen, wear a hat and use an umbrella.

Now to my favourite topic for summer golf in Viet Nam, or elsewhere for that matter… lightning.

The best way to avoid being hit by lightning on the golf course is to be somewhere else when the bolt comes down. It is really that simple. When the siren for dangerous weather blares, get off the golf course immediately. Get to a kiosk or inside the clubhouse.

Let me give you a few basic facts of lightning and perhaps dispel a few myths.

First, lightning can and does strike in the same place twice. Don't be fooled into thinking that any area is "safe". Secondly, an average lightning strike can reach temperatures of roughly 30,000 kelvins (53,540 degrees Fahrenheit), which explains why when hit by a lightning bolt, trees explode. An average lightning strike also carries a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts. Yes, you can get fried.

More importantly, thunder can be heard from up to 12 miles away, but lightning can travel 20 miles or more – especially when it's generated from the top of the cloud anvil – which are the most deadly strikes. This is when lightning can hit the ground from a "clear blue sky" (which inspired the saying "a bolt from the blue".

I have actually seen players refusing to get off the course until a tree exploded 20 yards from them, and even then they put up an argument. Unbelievable.

Bottom line, if you hear thunder nearby or see lightning flashes – don't be stupid. Get off the course until the dangerous weather passes.

Golf is a game, but it's not worth losing your life over. — VNS

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