Lightning: If you see it, flee it

It’s that time of the year where we have more thunderstorms and golfers need to understand that being on the golf course is one place to avoid. Of an estimated 80 deaths attributed to lightning each year here in the United States, half occur on golf courses. It’s easy to see why when you see open fields, isolated trees, open-sided shelters and even golf carts as places to avoid.

A good safety motto is: “If you can hear thunder, clear it. If you see lightning, flee it.”

Last summer while in Aruba, my group of golf writers from the United States followed this advice. We could see a storm approaching from the ocean as we played our practice round. You could hear thunder and see lightning off in the distance. As I prepared to tee off on a par 3 not far from the ocean, I heard thunder and dropped my club just as a big flash of lightning could be seen. We all got into our golf carts and headed to the clubhouse. En route back, a warning was posted on our golf cart for all players to stop play.

As a golfer, even playing in a tournament, you have the right to stop play even if play has not been officially stopped if you feel that there is a danger from lightning. My group did that in one an event in Myrtle Beach. We got to the clubhouse just as the sirens went off to stop play and before heavy rains started. Many other soaked writers wished they had followed our lead, but no one was struck by lightning, which starts before the rain.

Use common sense before going out on the course; monitor the local weather forecasts on television as they can usually give times when storms will hit in your area. Golf courses have staff keeping their eyes open to these reports and sound sirens to tell golfers to come in and post warnings on golf carts.

 For events like the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the HP Byron Nelson Championship, the PGA Tour staff has sophisticated systems that give them time to get fans to safety, too.L

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