Heat illness: How to battle the blaze

With temperatures still high across the country, try these tips to keep your crew safe and cool.


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Paul Watkins, 14-year GCSAA member and Golf Course Superintendent at River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo courtesy of Golf Safety

Editor’s note: The following article was supplied by Golf Safety. All product claims, research cited and other information is directly from the company.

With the sun still beating down at record-breaking temperatures on golf courses across the nation, it’s more important than ever to stress the dangers of heat illness to your crew. This has been particularly true in Texas, where Paul Watkins, superintendent of River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth, strives to uphold safety standards for his facility as the heat continues to build.

A 14-year GCSAA member, Watkins has many years of experience dealing with dangerous humidity levels and daily temperatures of over 100 degrees. Here are some of his top safety tips for keeping your crew safe from heat illness during this dangerously hot summer.

Refresh Your Crew’s Memory

To kick off each summer, Watkins starts the season with heat safety training. It may have been a while since your crew has worked in such high temperatures, and they might need reminders to rebuild those safety habits.

“That's the main one I hit on before summer kicks off,” says Watkins, “We’ve got a pretty experienced crew here. They've been here a long time, so they've been through it, but they need to be reminded.” No matter how experienced your crew is, the importance of preventative measures can never be overstated. Make sure you’re reviewing heat safety training for them year after year so that they can start every season with important measures fresh in their minds.

Teach Them to Stay Vigilant

Knowing the signs of heat illness can be the difference between life and death. “When it's hot out, I try to make as many rounds as I can throughout the day, just small chat with the guys,” Watkins says. He adds that symptoms of heat illness can include slurring your words or visible confusion, which is why he ensures his crew is active and safe throughout the day by checking up on them. Watkins recounts a close call with one crew member where early symptom detection helped prevent a dangerous outcome. “I had a guy who was struggling, so I went and talked to him, and he said that he just stopped sweating,” says Watkins. “He's like, ‘I was pouring down sweat and all of a sudden it stopped. And I knew something was wrong.’” If crew members can detect signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion before it’s too late, they can prevent life-threatening results — not just for themselves, but for their fellow team members.

Keep Those Electrolytes Topped Up!

It may sound obvious, but one of the best preventative measures for heat illness is staying hydrated. “It’s kind of a broken record now,” Watkins says.

However, simply drinking water is not enough to keep your crew safe throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water is essential, of course, but it also dilutes your electrolytes, which can leave you feeling weak and lightheaded. Watkins explains why your crew should not only top up on water throughout the day but also electrolyte-rich drinks like Gatorade. “I drank probably a gallon of water [the other day], and I started feeling dizzy,” he recounts. “I [had] drained my body of all those sugars and salts and electrolytes. I got a Gatorade, slammed it in about 15 minutes, and I was fine.”

At River Crest Country Club, Watkins’ crew has access to a ten-gallon jug of Gatorade to ensure that their electrolyte needs are filled.

Take the Necessary Precautions

To battle the blaze, you need to be equipped with the proper armor! In the case of your crew, that means gearing up with Personal Protective Equipment that keeps them safe from the unrelenting sun. PPE like long-sleeved shirts, hats, gloves, and cooling towels will help prevent the symptoms of heat illness while working.

Maintain A Continuous Cycle of Safety

It isn’t enough to simply teach your crew about heat safety once and then never mention it again. With the dangerous temperatures lately, your facility needs to maintain a continuous cycle of safety so your crew builds important habits that last. Watkins reiterates that “It's just the constant reminder. I think we all know heat safety… But the most important thing is just refreshing.” At River Crest Country Club, Watkins shares one of Golf Safety’s training videos with his crew at least once a month to act as a consistent reminder to stay vigilant. “It keeps it on their mind,” he says. “They're constantly aware of it.”

When it comes to heat safety, your crew’s well-being should be the most important thing. “We're not out here to kill anybody or rush things,” concludes Watkins, “Just take your time, drink lots of water… Constantly remind them to stay cool and stay hydrated.” It’s clear that at River Crest Country Club, continuous reminders and safety training have been vital steps in preventing heat illness among their crew. Equipped with Golf Safety’s training videos, Watkins and his crew battle on against the dangerous summer heat, taking careful precautions while the sun hammers down on their course. The heat may be raging on, but you can prepare your crew and make sure they’re equipped with everything they need to prevent heat illness on the golf course. Take it from Paul Watkins: thorough reminders and consistent training are the best weapons you have in your arsenal. Use Golf Safety’s range of training videos to keep your crew safe and educate them on the dangers of heat illness today.