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Thunderstorms, Lightning And Golf - Do's And Don'ts

Updated: Apr 16

Thunderstorms, Lightning And Golf - Do's And Don'ts

Spectacular Lightning Striking A City

In this post, we will discuss the best practices for golfers during thunderstorms and the necessary safety measures that should be implemented to protect personnel on the course.

Thunderstorms on the golf course must be taken extremely seriously especially as golf course accounts for about 5% of all lightning fatalities in the USA. Lightning is one of the scariest and most dangerous events golfers will encounter on the golf course and there is great potential for harm if not properly handled.

Thunder Means Lightning Is Nearby.

According to’s section on “Thunderstorms & Lightning,” lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related causes of fatality in the U.S., causing 51 deaths on average per year.

Lightning seeks the path of least resistance on its way to the ground, and the human body is a good conductor due to the body’s large percentage of water. While metal is a better conductor (lightning travels easily—and over long distances—through metal objects such as fences and railroad tracks), if you live in an area with frequent thunderstorms (and enjoy playing golf even in weather), then you are at risk.

Lightning & Thunderstorm Do's and Don'ts

Golf courses in areas of frequent thunderstorms may have bad weather procedures (such as sirens) in place to warn golfers. Here are some Do's and Don'ts If Caught On the Golf Course During Lightning Storm:

  • If lightning strikes are flashing, immediately make your way to the clubhouse, pro shop, your vehicle or designated lightning shelters (if any).

  • AVOID open-sided buildings do not provide protection from lightning even if they have a lightning rod).

  • If caught on the course and unable to get off, AVOID open high ground and isolated large trees. Do NOT stand under trees.

  • GETAWAY from the cart and LEAVE your golf clubs.

  • AVOID water (swimming pools, lakes, ponds, rivers), beaches, and boats

  • AVOID contact with electrical devices or metal (including some golf clubs, umbrellas, golf carts, etc.) and take off any metal spikes.

  • Do NOT lean against concrete walls and stay away from doors, windows, and metal objects (such as pipes, faucets, or metal fencing)

  • If stranded in the open, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley, or the lowest spot you can find.

  • Seek shelter inside a building or within a nearby automobile, but NOT a convertible or golf cart

  • If you are in an open area, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods, and try to reach the indoors whenever safely possible.

  • If you are in a forest or heavily tree-covered area, best advice: seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees

  • If no safe shelter is available ... stay AWAY from the tallest objects (trees, light poles, flag poles), metal objects (fences or golf clubs), standing pools of water, and fields.

  • A tingling sensation, or the hair on your arms standing up..., during a lightning storm is a warning of an imminent, nearby lightning strike. Immediately squat in a baseball catcher’s position with your arms in front of your knee and around your legs.

  • If in a group, members of the group should keep at least 15 feet apart.

Remember: Be on alert for weather conditions especially thunderstorms - in the event of lightning, leave the course and seek shelter immediately. Don't risk your safety.


Navigating Thunderstorms on the Golf Course: A Comprehensive Safety Guide

Golf, with its tranquil settings and captivating challenges, offers a unique communion with nature. Yet, the serenity of a round can quickly be disrupted when ominous clouds roll in, and thunder begins to rumble. In such moments, safeguarding yourself against lightning becomes paramount. Let's delve into a detailed exploration of lightning safety on the golf course, ensuring you can enjoy your game without compromising your well-being.

Understanding the Threat: Why Lightning Poses a Risk to Golfers

Lightning is a formidable force of nature, capable of striking with lethal consequences. Surprisingly, golf courses account for a notable portion of lightning-related fatalities in the United States, approximately 5%. The open layout of golf courses, often flanked by tall trees and lacking sufficient shelter, renders golfers particularly vulnerable during thunderstorms. Unlike the protection afforded by enclosed buildings, golfers find themselves exposed to the elements, making lightning strikes a real and potentially life-threatening hazard.

Recognizing Vulnerability: How Your Body and Equipment Contribute to the Risk

Lightning seeks the path of least resistance to reach the ground, and unfortunately, the human body's high water content makes it an efficient conductor of electricity. Moreover, metal objects, including golf clubs and carts, can exacerbate the risk, conducting electricity even more effectively. Therefore, during thunderstorms, it's imperative to avoid wielding metal clubs or carrying metal objects, as they can increase the likelihood of a lightning strike.

Taking Precautionary Measures: Golf Course Safety Protocols

In response to the inherent danger posed by thunderstorms, many golf courses have implemented comprehensive safety protocols to protect players. These measures may include audible sirens, strategically placed lightning shelters, and real-time weather updates broadcasted from the clubhouse. Familiarizing yourself with these protocols before teeing off can prove invaluable, ensuring swift and decisive action in the event of an approaching storm.

Navigating Thunderstorms: Strategies for Mitigating Risk

Seeking immediate shelter is the primary directive when thunderstorms loom large. Sturdy, enclosed buildings such as the clubhouse or pro shop offer the safest refuge from lightning strikes. Alternatively, if a building is inaccessible, retreating to your car, with its windows closed and the top up, can provide temporary protection. In the absence of either option, designated lightning shelters distributed throughout the course serve as viable alternatives, offering a degree of safety amidst the storm.

Avoiding Lightning Strikes: Essential Precautions for Golfers

During thunderstorms, certain actions can significantly reduce the risk of lightning strikes:

  • Steer clear of open-sided structures, which offer minimal protection from lightning strikes, regardless of the presence of lightning rods.

  • Avoid elevated terrain and solitary trees, as they are prime targets for lightning strikes.

  • Refrain from using golf carts and metal clubs, as they can conduct electricity and increase the risk of injury.

  • Exercise caution around water hazards and metal objects, as water and metal attract lightning strikes.

  • Keep a safe distance from concrete walls and refrain from leaning against them, as lightning can travel through electrical wiring and metal conduits.

Emergency Measures: What to Do When Shelter is Unavailable

In situations where immediate shelter is unavailable, adopting the following measures can help mitigate the risk of lightning strikes:

  • Seek low-lying areas such as ravines or ditches, minimizing your exposure to lightning.

  • In wooded areas, crouch under clusters of small trees rather than standing near single large trees, which are more likely to attract lightning strikes.

Last Resort Protection: Safety Measures in Extreme Circumstances

If no safe shelter or low-lying area is available, adhere to the following guidelines as a last resort:

  • Crouch low to the ground with your feet together, minimizing your height and reducing the risk of a direct lightning strike.

  • Mimic a baseball catcher's position, placing your hands on your knees and tucking your head down to further minimize exposure.

  • Maintain a distance of at least 15 feet from others in your group, reducing the risk of multiple injuries in the event of a lightning strike nearby.

Weather Awareness: Your Ultimate Defense Against Lightning

Staying informed about weather conditions is essential for golfers, particularly when thunderstorms are forecasted. Utilize weather apps or consult local forecasts before embarking on your round, and remain vigilant for any signs of impending storms while on the course. In the event of a thunderstorm warning, prioritize your safety over completing your round, as there will always be opportunities to play another day.

Additional Precautions: Enhancing Your Protection Against Lightning

Consider investing in a small, portable rain poncho made of non-conductive material, providing an additional layer of protection during sudden downpours. While not a substitute for proper shelter, a rain poncho can offer temporary relief from the elements, minimizing your exposure to lightning and inclement weather.

By adhering to these comprehensive safety guidelines and remaining vigilant in the face of

changing weather conditions, you can enjoy your golfing experience while minimizing the risk of lightning-related injuries. Remember, prioritizing safety ensures that you can continue to indulge in the sport you love for many rounds to come, free from the threat of lightning strikes.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Golf Course Lightning Safety Guide

1. Why is lightning safety particularly important for golfers?

Golfers are uniquely exposed to the elements on open courses, making them vulnerable to lightning strikes during thunderstorms. Understanding and adhering to lightning safety protocols is crucial to mitigate this risk effectively.

2. How prevalent are lightning-related incidents on golf courses?

Statistics show that golf courses account for approximately 5% of all lightning fatalities in the United States. This underscores the importance of implementing and following lightning safety measures while on the course.

3. What are the main factors that contribute to the risk of lightning strikes on golf courses?

The open layout of golf courses, combined with the presence of tall trees and minimal shelter, increases the likelihood of lightning strikes. Additionally, the conductive nature of metal equipment further amplifies the risk for golfers.

4. What precautions should golfers take when thunderstorms approach?

Golfers should seek immediate shelter in sturdy, enclosed buildings such as the clubhouse or their cars with windows closed. If no shelter is available, designated lightning shelters on the course can offer protection. It's essential to avoid open-sided structures, elevated terrain, metal objects, and water hazards during thunderstorms.

5. What should golfers do if they are caught in the open during a thunderstorm?

If shelter is unavailable, golfers should seek low-lying areas like ravines or ditches to minimize their exposure to lightning. In wooded areas, crouching under clusters of small trees is preferable to standing near solitary large trees.

6. What safety measures should golfers adopt as a last resort in extreme circumstances?

As a last resort, golfers should crouch low to the ground with their feet together, mimicking a baseball catcher's position. Maintaining a distance of at least 15 feet from others in the group can reduce the risk of multiple injuries in the event of a lightning strike nearby.

7. How can golfers stay informed about weather conditions while on the course?

Golfers should utilize weather apps or consult local forecasts before starting their round to stay informed about impending thunderstorms. Remaining vigilant for any signs of changing weather conditions during the game is essential to ensure timely action in response to thunderstorm warnings.

8. Are there any additional precautions golfers can take to enhance their protection against lightning?

Consider carrying a small, portable rain poncho made of non-conductive material to provide additional protection during sudden downpours. While not a substitute for proper shelter, a rain poncho can offer temporary relief from the elements, minimizing exposure to lightning and inclement weather.

9. How can golfers ensure their safety without compromising their enjoyment of the game?

By adhering to comprehensive lightning safety guidelines and remaining vigilant in the face of changing weather conditions, golfers can minimize the risk of lightning-related injuries while enjoying their golfing experience. Prioritizing safety ensures that golfers can continue to indulge in the sport they love for many rounds to come, free from the threat of lightning strikes.

10. What steps can golf courses take to enhance lightning safety for players?

Golf courses in thunderstorm-prone areas can implement various safety measures to protect players. These may include installing audible sirens, strategically placing lightning shelters throughout the course, and providing real-time weather updates from the clubhouse. Additionally, educating staff and players about lightning safety protocols is essential to ensure a proactive response to thunderstorm warnings.

11. How should golfers handle lightning safety during tournament play?

During tournaments, organizers should have a well-defined lightning safety plan in place, communicated to all participants and spectators. Golfers should be prepared to adhere to safety protocols, including promptly seeking shelter when thunderstorms approach. Tournament officials should closely monitor weather conditions and suspend play if lightning poses a threat to player safety.

12. Are there any signs golfers should watch for to anticipate thunderstorms?

Golfers should be alert to signs of impending thunderstorms, such as darkening skies, distant thunder, and sudden changes in wind direction. Observing lightning flashes or hearing thunder indicates that lightning is within striking distance, and immediate action should be taken to seek shelter.

13. How can golfers stay safe while on the driving range or putting green during a


When lightning threatens, golfers practicing on the driving range or putting green should abandon their activities and seek shelter immediately. Staying outdoors, even in open areas, significantly increases the risk of being struck by lightning. It's crucial to prioritize safety over practicing during inclement weather conditions.

14. What should golfers do if they witness someone being struck by lightning on the course?

If a golfer witnesses someone being struck by lightning, they should immediately call emergency services and provide assistance to the victim if it is safe to do so. Administering CPR or basic first aid, if trained, can potentially save a life. It's essential to remain calm and follow proper emergency procedures until help arrives.

15. Can golfers resume play immediately after a thunderstorm passes?

Even after a thunderstorm has passed, it's essential to wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder or lightning flash before resuming play. Lightning can still pose a threat even as storms move away, so waiting ensures that the risk of lightning-related injuries is minimized before returning to the course.

16. What resources are available to golfers for lightning safety education and preparation?

Golfers can access various resources for lightning safety education and preparation, including online guides, safety videos, and training courses offered by organizations such as the National Lightning Safety Institute. Additionally, many golf courses provide information and signage regarding lightning safety protocols to educate players and staff.

17. How can golfers encourage fellow players to prioritize lightning safety on the course?

Golfers can play an active role in promoting lightning safety by leading by example and advocating for adherence to safety protocols among their peers. Encouraging open discussions about lightning safety and sharing knowledge about the risks and best practices can help foster a culture of safety awareness on the golf course.

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