Lightning on the Golf Course

Not sure this is the best idea of a metal building in a field as a shelter from a lightning storm!

As a golfer, one of our biggest fears is being caught in a lightning storm. For some, it is not the fact that being hit is very bad or dangerous to our health, but the fact they cannot finish their round. When talking about lightning, most of us over the age of 35 are thinking of the famous scene of Bill Murray and the Padre playing golfing in hurricane like conditions. Well, fortunately, I have never played in such conditions and never plan too. How about you?

We all know the perils of playing golf in poor weather. Lightning is extremely dangerous. Every player is different and gauges their own safety standards, but before anyone gets confused about my intent, it there is lightning in the area, get off the golf course. However, others think of playing golf with lightning around more like this:

Lightning is a common meteorological hazard in Canada, which regularly kills and injures people. Based on an analysis of media reports, vital statistics, hospital admission and ER records, and fire loss data, it is estimated that each year on average in Canada, there are between nine and 10 lightning-related deaths and up to 164 lightning-related injuries. (Stats Canada)

As you can see, lightning strikes a bit more common than we thought. I generally leave the golf course if the lighting is around where I am playing and I can hear the rumble of poor weather. If I see lightning, I am off the course immediately. Fortunately, my golf course has a radar watch and will “blow the horn” which tells everyone to seek shelter.

It looks like lightning!

As golf season is starting to awake from a long winters nap, it is important to be safe on the golf course. Early season and mid summer storms are common in Canada and as golfers we should be aware of the playing conditions. So, this summer, don’t play golf in or around lightning and remember to always be safe on and off the course.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

6 thoughts on “Lightning on the Golf Course

  1. Florida has been called the lightning capitol of the world. It’s not actually true according to a NASA study on the subject but we do have more than our fair share every year. Over 20 strikes per square mile and over a million strikes a year. And we led the death toll in 2016. Central Florida, where I live, is particularly prone to lightning. Some of our courses have warning sirens that let us know when lightning is detected within 5 miles which is nice because if we ran everytime we saw a strike, we’ld never get to play in the summer. Thankfully, thunderstorms don’t stick around long here usually and we can shelter for a short time then get back out and finish our game.


      • Thunderstorms are almost daily events here in the summer, but cell phone apps with weather radar have made knowing whether to stay and wait it out or head home an easier choice to make. And lots of our courses have a couple of roofed shelters on each nine we can either drive the carts right in, or that provide benches, water fountains and bathrooms. I’ve waited out many a storm in one of them. And thats not the only weather event we have to keep our eyes on. I once was playing in a light sprinkle and I had finished a hole and was waiting on my playing partner to finish up. He had hit a bad swing and spent too much time looking for his ball, so I finished and was waiting for him in the cart. I happened to look around behind me to see if I could spot the end of the clouds yet and instead saw what looked like a little dust devil, only it was forming over a small lake next to the cart path. When it first caught my eye it was a tiny thing. A few inches wide and maybe a foot tall. I watched it for a few seconds then turned to see how my partner was doing. When I turned back, that little dust devil had grown. It was maybe ten feet wide and tall enough the top of the cart blocked my view. And it swallowed me and the cart. For a couple of seconds, it wasn’t raining while it went over me but I could see the rain spinning sideways around me. My partner had stuffed his open umbrella into his bag while he played the hole and the dust devil picked it up as it went past me. He saw that happen as he was leaving the hole and came running for it. It was flying pretty fast in a big 20 foot circle by the time he reached the area. Fast enough that he got hit in the back with it on one pass. He didn’t get a hand on it and the last we saw of his umbrella it was at least 100 feet in the air and heading out over Tampa Bay. So Florida golf allowed me to see the inside of a tornado. Sort of.


      • Kevin

        That is an amazing and scary story at the same time. I am glad you are alright. I have never experience volatile like that weather golfing. I think I would have headed in for a beer and thanked my luck stars all was ok.



      • I don’t think scary properly descibes the experience. Surreal seems more apt. The spinning winds weren’t strong enough to fear them. The thing that most impressed me was that it was quieter inside the thing. No more rain hitting the roof of the cart, and no breeze at all.

        One second I was protected from the rain under the roof of the cart, the next it was flying at my face, and the next few seconds, dry and weirdly quiet. Then I was getting hit from behind by the rain and the noise was back from the rain hitting the cart plus I heard the umbrella getting yanked out of his bag which was kind of loud as it made a couple clubs bang together. Then watching the guy try to chase his umbrella made me want to laugh. That was a bit of slapstick comedy.

        It just all happened so fast being scared never crossed my mind.


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