10:12 06 January 2009
The relaxing game of golf, usually related to gentle retirement plans, may not be so healthy after all.
The latest must-have titanium clubs (costing hundreds of pounds each to deliver extra yardage and power) have been linked with hearing loss.
Ear specialists have revealed that the hearing of one 55-year-old player may have been damaged by the sound of his new ultra-thin club striking the ball.
The team have suggested golfers should consider wearing ear plugs to minimise the threat to their health when on the links.
A study in the British Medical Journal, which pitted six brands of titanium clubs against thicker-faced and older stainless steel models, concluded that the newer models produced greater sound levels.
It was carried out by a team of ear, nose and throat specialists based at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after a golfer attended their clinic suffering from reduced hearing in his right ear along with unexplained tinnitus.
The link was initially made when he complained he had been using one lightweight club three times a week for 18 months which made a sound "like a gun going off". A better swing produces more power in order to hit the ball further with accuracy and thus more sound.
One of the study's authors, Malcolm Buchanan, said: "Thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals."
Now the researchers have warned that golfers should consider ear protection, particularly when playing on an enclosed driving range where they might hit hundreds of balls over a relatively short period, researchers said.
However, professionals believe they could prevent players hearing cries of "fore" which signals that a ball could be in touching down in dangerous proximity to other players.
A basic guide to playing golf.
Scott Gourlay, head professional at Craigmillar Park Golf Club in Edinburgh, said: "On a range, you might get an effect from these drivers. But it's not as bad on the course because the noise dissipates in the open air and you are only hitting a drive every 15 minutes."