What To Do When Lightning Strikes

I usually talk about lightning in golf lessons and golf tips because it's important. Lightning claims more lives every year than hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods combined, according to some reports. That's a lot of people. And golfers with their hand held lightning rods, as I mention in my golf instruction sessions, are as likely to be killed as anyone, unless they're careful.

How deadly is lightning? If you're hit by lightning, you probably will not get another chance to lower your golf handicap. A typical shock from lightning sends several thousand amps through your body in an instant. Unfortunately, it takes only two amps to stop your heart. So your chances of surviving after being struck by lightning are not good. That's why you should know exactly what to do when you're on the course and lightning strikes.

Here's a short golf instruction session on what to do.

o Get off the course immediately

If you see lightning or hear thunder, even in the distance, get off the course immediately. Squalls and thunderstorms bearing lightning move quickly sometimes. Before you know it, they're right on top of you, catching you unprepared. If you see trouble, get off the course instantly. Do not worry about your clubs or the cart. Just get to shelter.

o Find a dense wooded area

Do not seek refuge under a lone tree. That's extremely dangerous. Thickets of short trees, On the other hand, are relatively safe. Also, avoid isolated shacks, unless they are grounded with lightning rods. Many are not, so be careful. Do not enter one unless you know for sure that it's been grounded. One golfer who took a golf lesson from me was surprised to find out after a storm that the shack she took shelter in was not grounded.

o Fall to your knees

When caught in the open, fall to your knees. Lightning strikes the highest point in the immediate vicinity. So if you're caught in the open and you think you're going to be struck by lightning, go down to your knees. Get as low as possible, but do not lie down. You want as little of the ground touching your body as possible. Lightning often travels through the ground

o Take off you spiked shoes

Not many golfers who take golf instruction sessions from me wear metal spikes these days. But some do. If you happen to be one and you get caught on the course when lightning strikes, take your shoes off. The metal attracts electricity. You're better off getting your socks wet than being hit by lightning.

o Get rid of your umbrella

Most golf umbrellas are made of fiberglass, making them less likely to attract lightning. However, lightning will strike an umbrella occasionally, because lightning tends to strike the highest point in the immediate vicinity. Never carry an umbrella except during a light drizzling rain.

o Stand away from your clubs

Stand as far away from your clubs as possible and never get caught holding one. Golf clubs are natural lightning rods, and nothing attracts lightning faster than a golf club. When Lee Trevino was hit by lightning at the Western Open in 1975, the same bolt hit Arnold Palmer's golf club 40 yards down the fairway.

o Stay away from water

Get as far away from ponds and lakes as you can. Water is a great conductor of electricity. If lightning strikes a lake or a pool, it can move through the ground and hit you where you stand. Remember few people are struck directly by lightning. It almost always strikes something near by and conducts through the ground.

o Golf carts are not safe

Forget what you've heard about golf carts being safe during a storm. Rubber tires do not ground electricity. That's a myth. It's not unusual for lightning to bounce off a tree and go right through a car's roof, killing the car's occupants. Golf carts are even less safe. Lightning strikes the highest point on the ground and that might just be the top of your golf cart.

o Avoid the green

This is one time on a golf course where it's better to be in a greenside bunker than on the green. Greens are often a bit higher than the surrounding terrain, making them more likely to be struck by lightning. In addition, the flagstick is especially likely to be struck by lightning. So the last place you want to be is on the green. Forget what you've been told in golf tips about how bad it is being in a bunker. This time it's good. Move to a greenside bunker and kneel down.

Newspapers publish stories about golfers being killed by lightning about 150 times a year. But lightning is much more dangerous than that. Follow the advice given above when lightning strikes and it's a good bet your name will not appear in one of those stories. We want everyone around to be able to take more golf lessons, read about golf, and continue lowering their golf handicaps. Be safe.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse