Don’t tread lightning

Presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America

It always seems to happen when you are having the round of your life. The sky darkens, the wind picks up and the thunder begins to roll across the golf course.

It’s tempting to convince yourself and your playing partners that there is enough time to finish your round, or at least a few more holes. If you play on, instead of seeking shelter, your great round could become the last round of your life.

Every year more people are killed or injured by lightning than by tornadoes, floods or hurricanes. In fact, it's estimated that in the United States, as many as 300 people are killed by lightning each year.

Because of the generally open areas with scattered individual trees, golf courses are dangerous places during a thunderstorm. A lightning bolt will take the shortest route between the cloud and the ground, which means that a golfer standing in the middle of a fairway or huddled under a tree is a prime target for a strike.

However, there are several safety measures you can take to avoid being hit by lightning:

  • Seek shelter at the first sign of a thunderstorm. If the course's warning system sounds, take cover.
  • If possible, get off the golf course or go to a designated lightning shelter.
  • Do not stand under a lone tree. This is where most people are injured or killed.
  • Stay away from water.
  • Stay away from your golf clubs.
  • If your shoes have metal spikes, take them off.
  • Move away from your golf cart.
  • If stranded in the open, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley.

First aid

If a player in your group is struck by lightning, the person is no longer carrying any electrical current, so you can apply first aid immediately. The golfer will be burned and have received a severe electrical shock.

People who have been apparently "killed" by lightning can be revived if quick action is taken. If you must make a choice, treat those who are not breathing first -- those who are unconscious but still breathing will probably come out of it on their own.

First aid should be rendered to those not breathing within four to six minutes to prevent irrevocable brain damage. Mouth-to mouth resuscitation should be administered once every five seconds to adults and once every three seconds to infants and small children.

However, if the victim is not breathing and has no pulse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is necessary, but should be administered only by persons with proper training. You should also check for burns along the extremities and around areas in contact with metal, give first aid for shock and then send for help.

For more information regarding golf course management practices, contact your local superintendent or the GCSAA at 800-472-7878 or www.gcsaa.org.