As American golfer Lee Trevino will tell you, playing golf in a thunderstorm can be a dangerous pursuit – as he himself was struck by lightning during the Western Open in 1975.
“The electricity stopped my heart”, he recalled. “When I woke up, I was in pain. The doctor said if I hadn’t had such a strong heart I would be dead.”
While Lee’s is clearly a rare case, there are a few simple but important safety tips to bear in mind if you ever find yourself in a storm while playing a round.
1. Leave the umbrella alone
We appreciate that with a storm usually comes an awful lot of rain, but if there is thunder and lightning about – leave your umbrella and clubs in the bag. The metal parts of the clubs and umbrella can attract the lightning’s electrical current and redirect it right through your body.
2. Don’t ring for help
While it might be less obviously full of metal than your umbrella, your mobile phone can also attract and conduct electricity in a storm. If you happen to be using it when danger strikes – the effects could be severe.
For instance, the British Medical Journal recorded a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning when using her phone in stormy weather – causing cardiac arrest. Be safe, keep it in your bag if the clouds are swirling.
3. Stay away from the water hazard
In the same way that swimmers and boaters are advised to get out of the water in a storm, so you should stay away from any lakes, ponds or water hazards around. Some people think standing in shallow water is good protection from lightning – but couldn’t be more wrong. It’s also well known that electricity is able to leap – so move well away from the water.
4. Don’t stand under a tree
While we’re on the subject of what to avoid on a golf course – don’t hide under a tree either. Studies estimate 25% of people struck by lightning outdoors were under a tree. The reason why is down to moisture.
Humans are around 65% water – while trees are only 20%. Since electricity will take the path of least resistance to the ground and water is an excellent conductor, lightning is far more likely to pick you over the tree.
5. If it’s too late, crouch
If you can’t get back to the 19th hole or inside a car, and you feel your hair start to stand on end – head for the nearest bunker. Crouch down in the sand, with your feet together – and your head tucked into your knees. That way, your most vital body parts are most protected. While it might look ridiculous, the alternative is much worse, we assure you.
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