Spring and summer weather conditions are often perfect for quick thunderstorms to develop. The National Lightning Safety Institute offers the following information:
Lightning is arbitrary, random and unpredictable. Five percent of annual United States lightning deaths and injuries happen on golf courses. Everyone associated with the game should participate in lightning safety.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) makes available warning posters and stickers to inform players about lightning safety tips. As a golfer, you should know that the USGA Rules of Golf (Rule 6-8) allow players to discontinue play if they believe there is a danger from lightning. No other sport has any regulations relating to lightning.
A good rule for everyone is: "If you can see it (lightning), flee it; if you can hear it (thunder), clear it." I have also heard people say, “If you hear thunder, lightning is near.” A few years ago, I had a friend get struck and killed by lightning playing golf on a sunny day – so it isn’t anything to mess with. There is no round of golf so important to risk your life.
Some guidelines from the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSA) include:
- Seek shelter at the first sign of a thunderstorm. If the course's warning system sounds, head for cover.
- If possible, get off the golf course or go to a designated lightning shelter (Note: open-sided buildings do not provide protection from lightning even if they have a lightning rod).
- Do not stand under a lone tree. This is where most people are injured or killed.
- Stay away from water.
- Stay away from your golf clubs.
- If your shoes have metal spikes, take them off.
- Move away from your golf cart.
- If stranded in the open, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. (Note: If you feel a tingling sensation and the hair on your arms stands up, squat in a baseball catcher's position, balancing on the balls of your feet, feet together, arms in front of your knees. If in a group, members of the group should keep at least 15 feet apart.)
Stay safe on the course and when weather looks threatening, head for the clubhouse.
The following Lightning Card produced by the USGA includes additional safely information from the National Lightning Safety Institute and American Meteorological Society.