Whether you’re new to golf, have just taken up the game, or are a seasoned veteran, every golfer has had to deal with blisters at some point or another. They’re painful, take time to heal, and can play havoc with your grip and swing.
Unfortunately, blisters are a part of the game we love, especially if you spend as much time at the practice driving range as I do. I’ve had more than my fair share of blisters, but over time I have learned and taken various steps to prevent them. The result? I rarely get blisters anymore, no matter how much I practice.
But do blisters really have to be part and parcel of the game? Or are there things we can do to help reduce the chance of blisters? Luckily there are several strategies you can implement, and in today’s post, were going to run through a number of them.
We’ll be looking at things like:
- What are blisters?
- How can you prevent them?
- What can we do to treat them?
- Gloves and bandages and much, much more
By the end of this comprehensive guide, I’m confident you’ll never get another blister again, but if you do, you’ll know exactly how to treat them.
What Are Blisters?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Your skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and subcutaneous (below the skin) fat. A blister forms under the epidermis as a fluid-filled sac. Typically, it may be filled with clear liquid or blood, depending on the injury that damaged your skin. Blisters may be painful or itchy. If a blister gets infected, it will fill with milky-white pus. Blisters often appear on the feet or hands but can appear anywhere on the body.”
Blisters are a common problem for nearly every golfer simply because of the number of practice golfers put in and the number of miles they walk each round. A typical round of golf can have golfers walking anywhere from 3 to 5 miles over 18 holes. Blisters on the feet are pretty common, especially during the summer when your feet can get sweaty.
If blisters are not treated correctly, they can cause significant pain and even become infected, leading to more serious health conditions such as bleeding and an increase in pain.
What Causes Blisters?
When it comes to golf, blisters are generally caused by the friction generated by repeatedly gripping the club and swinging with power. The friction causes the two layers of your skin, the epidermis, and the dermis, to separate and then fill with blood or fluid.
In golfers, the most common place to find blisters is on the feet and hands. Most golfers think about only treating blisters that appear on the hands, but in actual fact, the feet take a real battering when playing golf. The amount of force and twisting of the body during the swing creates friction on the heels of your feet as the power is transferred from the ground up.
Poorly fitting golf shoes are a common cause of blisters, as is the sweat that builds up during practice; this is why it’s important to always bring a pair of spare shoes and fresh socks.
Blisters, on the hand, are the ones that golfers fear the most because they can quite literally put an end to your round or practice session. The friction caused by swinging the club and gripping the grip causes “hot spots.” If not treated, these hotspots turn from irritation into a blister, and the fluid and blood start to build up under the skin.
The pressure that builds up from the fluid is what causes the pain. The fluid provokes nerves under the skin, causing pain in the hand or the area where the blister occurs.
What Other Athletes Are At Risk Of Blisters
I’m guessing many of you don’t just play golf but several other sports in your pastimes, and more than likely, you’re regular gym-goers too. Some sports and athletes are more inclined to suffer from blisters, so for avid golfers, this would be terrific information to know so you can take precautions to prevent blisters from forming.
Some sports are more likely to cause blisters in the hands, while in other sports, blisters in the feet are much more likely. Blisters on the hand can wreak havoc for athletes of sports requiring them to grip a club or bat repeatedly.
These sports include:
- Weightlifting and
- Athletic events like pole vaulting and the gymnastics
Other sports that require tremendous amounts of running, changing direction, and stopping quickly can cause blisters on the feet, which, as I can tell you from experience, are excruciating. In fact, I remember coaching one female tennis professional who had to withdraw mid-match because of the pain caused by blisters on her feet was just too much to handle.
These sports include:
- Soccer and
- Athletic events like the marathon
Generally, blisters on the feet are caused by friction from the sock rubbing against the skin and the sole of the shoe. If your shoe is not fitted correctly, the chance of developing blisters on your feet increases significantly.
There’s nothing worse than blisters on the balls of your feet, especially when playing golf because it hampers your ability to swing powerfully and can hinder your tournament preparation.
How To Treat Golf Blisters Correctly
Treating a blister the correct way depends largely on whether or not the blister is still intact or has burst; both of these scenarios require entirely different treatments.
One crucial point to make is that the skin that overlays the blister should be left intact as long as possible. Unfortunately, many golfers take the skin off too early, which is a big mistake because the blister is now open to the chance of infection. Removing the skin from the blister also increases the pain because the nerves are now exposed.
The most common question golfers ask is whether or not they should drain the blister? This will depend on whether the blister is filled with fluid yet. Remember what I mentioned earlier about the pressure from the fluid causing the pain; Well, if the blister is fluid-filled, draining it will immediately lessen the pain.
Draining your blister can be done relatively quickly and easily, but only if you’re prepared to follow the steps outlined in treatment protocols for golfing blisters.
Treatment protocols for draining a golfing blister:
- Thoroughly clean the area with a bar of antiseptic soap to help clean out any possible bacteria
- Find a small sewing needle and heat it to sterilize it
- Gently squeeze the blister just as you would a balloon, ensuring that one side of the blister is raised.
- Now the tricky part; using the sterilized needle, pop a hole in the blister that is large enough to release the fluid but not so small that the skin can reseal
- Using a sterile gauze pad, slowly drain the fluid from the blister until all the fluid is gone
- After you’ve drained the fluid from the blister, apply some antibiotic cream to prevent the chance of infection
- Cover your blister with a bandage
- Finally, check and recheck the blister daily, ensuring you change the dressing until the blister has healed.
When it comes to open blisters that have already burst, they obviously don’t need to be drained; however that being said, golfers still need to ensure they follow the protocols above to stave off infection and serious golfing injury.
If, for example, your blister is only tiny and has a minor tear, it’s best to keep as much skin as possible to help the underlying skin grow and harden.
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Treatment protocols for an open blister
- Clean and wipe the area with an antibacterial soap
- Let the blistering air dry, and then apply antibiotic cream or ointment
- If possible, replace the broken flap of skin back over the wound and cover it with a band-aid
- As you did with the earlier protocols, check and change the bandages daily until the blister has healed
- Once the blister has healed, carefully trim the dead skin to help reduce the chance of infection
In some cases, the blister on your golfing hand can completely tear away, in which instance you need to remove all excess skin and immediately wash the area with an antiseptic soap. As with the other blisters, apply some antiseptic or antibiotic cream and cover the wound with an occlusive bandage.
These blisters are quite a bit more painful, and the pain might persist for a few days longer than a regular blister.
How Can You Stop Golf Blisters From Forming
The best way for golfers to stop blisters from forming on their hands is to wear a golf glove. Reducing friction is really the key to mitigating blisters, and ensuring you have several golf gloves ready to go is paramount.
Golf gloves keep your fingers and hands dry and prevent the sweat from creating added friction which can and will cause blisters. If you don’t wear a golf glove, then you’re pretty much asking for trouble when it comes to blisters.
Ensuring your golf glove fits right can transform your game because you’ll never have to worry about blisters again. The added cushioning from the golf glove makes the grip more comfortable to hold, meaning you can practice harder and longer.
If you find your glove too loose, moisture can creep in, and your hands can start to sweat, increasing friction, particularly on the palms of your hands. If you have short fingers, then your best option would be to buy a junior golf glove.
If you practice as much as I do, you’ll want to make sure you’re constantly changing your gloves. Changing your gloves regularly ensure they stay nice and fresh and give your hands a chance to breathe. There is nothing worse than a sweaty smelly golf glove; unless you’re trying to get into the heads of your playing partners.
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Gripping The Club Like A Baby Bird
Have you ever felt like you’re holding the club too tight in your hands? well, you’re not alone; most amateur golfers don’t grip the club; they strangle it. If this sounds like you, then you need to make a change because gripping the club too tight will not only cause blisters but also hinder your shot-making ability.
I advise all of my players to imagine the golf club’s grip as a baby bird. This works especially for beginner and high-handicap golfers who tend to “strangle” the golf club. High-handicappers don’t realize just how little pressure is needed to hold the club; someone should be able to walk right up to you while you’re gripping the club and pull it straight out from your hands.
Strangling the club hinders your ability to “feel” the shot, especially on shorter shots around the green. One thing you can do to help your short game feel around the green is to take your glove off. This allows you to develop much more feel and understand how different pressures on the grip affect various shots.
Choosing The Correct Golf Shoes
Ask 100 golfers about which part of the body blisters in golf are a major concern, and 99 golfers will say their hands, but in reality, although the hands do suffer from blisters, the feet can take a beating while out on the golf course.
Many golf courses are over 7,000 yards, and when you factor in the zigzagging that most golfers do, it’s easy to walk well over 5 miles during an 18-hole round. Just as you would with any shoe, ensuring they fit correctly will help to reduce the chance of blisters forming. Choosing the right golf shoe is no easy, especially considering the wide array that’s available.
Walk into any golf shop, and you’ll be taken aback by just how many different types of golf shoes there are. Golf shoes come with soft spikes, hard spikes, and even rubber dimples that make the shoe feel more like a sneaker rather than a golf shoe.
Don’t forget about purchasing a good pair of golf socks too. Socks made from a lightweight and breathable material are your best bet because they help to keep your feet cool and free from painful blisters that can appear on your heel.
Golf Blisters FAQs
Q: How can I speed up recovery from a blister?
A: Following the blisters treatment protocol that I outlined earlier is essential if you want to speed up recovery from your blisters. Cleaning the wound first with a bar of antibacterial soap and then applying an antiseptic cream is your best bet.
Giving the blister time to heal is critical because the last thing you want to do is start playing too early and risk the chance of your blister becoming infected.
Q: What can I put on my blister?
A: Depending on where your blister is located, there are a number of different creams, soaps, oils, ointments, and bandages you can apply to ensure the blister heals correctly. Don’t forget to wear a golf glove, too, because they protect your hand from the friction created by the rubber grip on your hands.
Q: Why do blisters appear on my thumb?
A: Blisters generally appear on your thumb because either you’re not wearing a glove or your glove doesn’t fit your hand correctly.
Another common problem that can cause blisters on your thumb is using an incorrect grip. Golfers who struggle with blisters constantly appearing on their thumbs are more often than not using a grip that is too strong.
I suggest slightly “tweaking” your grip and experimenting with a somewhat weaker left hand that can help take considerable pressure off your more dominant right hand. A golf glove will help to give your thumbs a much-needed break from painful blisters and allow you to practice for more extended periods.
The 18th Hole
While golf blisters seem like they can end your career, in actual fact, if you can bear the pain, most blisters are typically healed within a couple of days. If you follow the treatment protocols in this guide, I’m pretty confident you’ll reduce your chance of developing a nasty blister.
If you do happen to form a blister, you know exactly what to do, but just in case you’ve forgotten, let’s go over the basics one last time.
- Wear a golf glove to keep your hands dry
- Grip the club like a baby bird
- Use antibiotic soap to clean the wound
- Apply antiseptic cream
- Use a bandage to cover and protect the blister
If you follow the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll never have to worry about golf blisters ruining your round again.