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Lightning on a golf course

There is one subject which is never far away from the topic of conversation of a golfer and that’s the weather! After all during a 5 hour round of golf (on Tour) we can experience 4 seasons in one day.

After a huge storm over much of the UK last night I thought I would write about lightning on a golf course understanding what we can and should do if the situation arises.

Lightning on a golf course is the only “dangerous” situation we are permitted under the current rules of golf to discontinue play. After all here we are playing in an open environment very often surrounded by large established trees, sometimes the furthest point from the shelter of the clubhouse.

This is not to mention swinging a metal object with some height which is a conductor and sheltering under an umbrella!


Your Club should have a procedure in place and are responsible for sounding a klaxon in a dangerous situation either during a casual round of golf or during a competition well in advance of the storm’s arrival. When competing on the Asian Tour during the 90’s and in the States Summer storms were fairly common with most courses using a lightning detector. This relays information when a storm is within 10 miles of the course. I always remember learning the cloud formations at school..so the shape is generally a giveaway clue too.

The first thing to remember is as soon as you see lightning you are within your rights to stop play and clear the course, so mark your golf ball placing a tee peg(s) close to the ball. If you are on the green mark with a circular object too and remember where your ball is just in case heavy rain moves your marker.

The rule if playing in a National or Professional Event is no ball maybe be struck after the Klaxon has sounded, if so then disqualification is on the cards. This ruling is different if the course is deemed unplayable due to flooding or strong winds where the player has the option to complete the hole being played.

Please do not just shelter under the canopy of a tree  whilst holding your umbrella, try to find an outbuilding but make your way towards safety as quickly as possible. Do not stand by water or a pond as these are conductors.

It is wise to take a spare set of clothing if playing in a match or competition, the klaxon will be sounded to continue play when the storm has passed. At this point replace your ball by your markers and resume play.

The chances of lightning strikes are rare but with the extremes of weather we have been experiencing it is not worth the risk of trying to hole that 10 ft putt for a birdie! You will have probably have a 35% chance anyway. Stay safe and respect “Mother nature”.