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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

Section 4.14

A Lightning Safety Mandate For The Game Of Golf

By Richard Kithil, President & CEO, NLSI

Lightning is arbitrary, random and unpredictable. Some five percent of annual USA 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.

Golfers know that the USGA Rules of Golf (Rule 5.7) allow players to discontinue play if they believe there is a danger from lightning. Golf and Frisbee Golf are the only sports with 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."

"Where is a safe place? How quickly can we get there?" golfers should ask themselves. Go to large permanent buildings or get into a fully enclosed metal vehicle (car, van or pickup truck). Avoid trees since they "attract" lightning. Avoid small on-course shelters: they are intended only for sun and rain safety. Donít wait around for the next strike, please.

Golf course operations in the Superintendentís office, the Pro Shop and the Head Office can provide lightning safety assistance too. We suggest the following measures be adopted:

Role of the Golf Course Superintendent:

  1. Be informed about daily weather conditions. Some resources for this include: a NOAA weather radio; TV weather; on-line weather services; weather subscription services; notification from nearby commercial or government airfields; dedicated lightning detection and notification systems; looking out the window, etc.
  2. Your employees should be told that they can suspend activities and go to an appropriate shelter if they believe they are threatened by lightning.
  3. Place USGA lightning stickers on all operating machinery, pump house, employee bulletin boards, rest room mirrors, and other visible locations.

Role of the Pro Shop:

  1. Monitor changing weather conditions as described above.
  2. Notify players of threatening conditions. Some examples: post a daily weather advisory; blow the air horn or the sirens; put a safety notice on the scorecards. (The preceding ideas are examples. Your options are to do something or to do nothing...) When should the course be closed to further play? That is a local decision and is based upon case-by-case circumstances.
  3. Place USGA lightning posters and stickers in conspicuous places, including doors to the pro shop, the cash registers, golf cars, beverage carts and the locker rooms.

Role of the Head Office, the Club Manager, or the Board of Directors:

  1. Assure the above recommendations at the Superintendentís office and at the Pro Shop are initiated and maintained. Keep your people informed.
  2. Maintain written records of lightning safety procedures and keep copies of all posted materials. Maintain a file called "Lightning Safety." Adopt a policy for lightning safety. Post it for all to see.
  3. Comply with Duty To Warn issues and avoid a negligent posture.

Remember: Lightning incidents may not be preventable, but a best effort defense is a prudent thing to do. Education about the lightning hazard is everyoneís job.

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