How Can the Golfer Protect Himself Against Lightning?

If you play golf regularly in Florida you will probably become quite experienced with coping with a hazards of lightning. Statistically more golfers are injured by lightning strikes in Florida than in any other state. But that’s not to say that lightning is not an issue anywhere; in fact just about anywhere golfers, as well as anyone who spends time outdoors, have to be aware of the dangers of lightning strikes.

Back in the days when I used to coach a lot of kids sports, we had a common rule that as soon as you saw any lightning in the area, practice was over. And the same principles should be true for anyone who golf’s. There have been many instances where lightning has struck with little or no warning, so when we do get those warning signs like thunder in the area or lightning in the distance, we should heed them promptly and take cover.

Perhaps the best-known lightning strike on a golf course in history came in 1975 at the Western open, when Lee Trevino, a PGA golfer who at the time was at the top of his game, seemingly out of nowhere was hit by a lightning strike, along with two other golfers. From that strike he sustained spinal injuries which hampered him the remainder of his playing career. The point is, getting struck by lightning, even if it’s not with a full bolt (which would likely kill you) will probably change your life forever. It is certainly not worth the risk of playing a couple extra holes and tempting fate.

Before a golfer goes out onto the course he should check in the pro shop to see if there is an impending lightning situation. They should be able to pull up on a screen with any weather conditions in the area. At that point at least you’re informed if you should be on the lookout for lightning. But when you’re on the course it’s pretty much up to you and the decisions you’ll make as to whether it’s wise to continue playing or find immediate shelter. Even if you think that the golf course management should take some responsibility in your safety, you have to believe your health is only dependent on upon your decision-making.

Once you’re out on the course and you decided that you are in some trouble, you should make your decisions quickly and decisively. Sticking an umbrella in the air is definitely asking for trouble; never do it. Finding shelter anywhere you can until the storm has completely passed is your best move. And as far as wearing protective shoes that will insulate you from the ground: forget about it. To protect you from a full lightning strike would require rubberized shoes several inches thick, so don’t let shoes give you a false sense of security. Make your decisions early, and realize just how devastating a lightning strike can be.