Causes of Heat Exhaustion

By Chris Joseph
Prevent heat exhaustion that can occur on the golf course.
Prevent heat exhaustion that can occur on the golf course.

Playing a round of golf in extreme heat and humidity can be hazardous to your health, especially if you're not used to this type of climate. Heat exhaustion is characterized by intense sweating and a rapid pulse. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to the life-threatening condition of heat stroke.

Lack of Acclimation

Heat exhaustion can occur as a result of not being able to adapt to a change in climate. For example, if you reside in Minnesota and you travel to Miami in the middle of January for a golf vacation, your body may have difficulty adjusting to the change from extreme cold to the oppressive heat and humidity, exacerbated by playing a strenuous round of golf.

Sweat Evaporation

Your body uses perspiration to keep you cool during extremely hot conditions. When the perspiration evaporates, it helps lower your body temperature. However, humidity can cause this process not to work properly, which can result in heat exhaustion.

Lack of Fluid Replacement

Heat exhaustion can occur if body fluids lost through sweating are not replaced. Sweating results in the loss of salt and electrolytes, and if these are not replenished adequately, the body can develop circulatory problems leading to heat exhaustion. While drinking water during your golf round is beneficial, it does not contain the necessary electrolytes and salt. For extreme heat and humidity, a sports drink such as Gatorade should be consumed.


Closely relating to the lack of fluid replacement is dehydration, which is the lack of adequate amounts of water in the body. This can lead to heat exhaustion. In addition to drinking fluids during your round of golf, it is beneficial to drink large amounts of water before playing in heat and humidity.

Alcohol Consumption

Some golfers prefer to enjoy a beer or two while on the golf course. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption can result in the body not being able to regulate its temperature properly, which can cause heat exhaustion. The best way to avoid this is to not consume alcohol when playing, especially in hot, humid conditions.


Wearing clothes that are not suitable for playing conditions can lead to heat exhaustion, especially heavy clothes that do not allow for sweat evaporation. If you are playing in a climate that starts off cool and becomes hot during the day, dress in removable layers that will allow you to adjust as the temperature increases.

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