Last week in Colorado, a 23-year-old man died on a golf course after being struck by lightning; the first golfer this year. Sadly though, he is the 18th casualty this year due to lightning, reports the National Weather Service.
The NWS estimates there are 25 million lightning flashes in the United States each year, killing an average of nearly 60 people annually. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, just over 75 percent of U.S. lightning deaths occur in June, July, and August. The statistics also reveal that about five percent of annual lightning deaths and injuries in the United States happen on golf courses.
Since 2001, however, NOAA has made a concerted effort to raise lightning awareness in the golf community. This outreach has made a huge difference since lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75 percent. NWS reports that the top leisure activities where lightning deaths occur include: Fishing, camping, boating, and soccer.
Lightning is an extremely powerful atmospheric force, and its consequences are astounding. Consider that the temperature of lightning is approximately 10,000° C, or 18,000° F, while the surface temperature of the sun is 5,500° C, 9,900° F.
Consider These Tips to Avoid being Struck by Lightning
• Practice the flash-to-bang measurement of lightning distance. This is the time from seeing the stroke to hearing the thunder. For each five-second count, lightning is one mile away. Thus, 20 seconds equals four miles away; 15 seconds equals three miles away, etc.
• Avoid water and metal objects like golf clubs, fences, electric wires, motors, and railroad tracks. Unsafe places include golf carts, tents, small open-sided rain shelters, and underneath isolated trees. Avoid hilltops and open spaces.
• Where possible, find shelter in a building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck, or van with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby, you should avoid direct contact with other people, get into a ditch or a shallow depression, remove all metal objects, and crouch down, feet together and hands on your knees.
• If you are hopelessly isolated in a level golf course or field and you feel your hair stand on end indicating lightning is about to strike— squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.
Be safe out there.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer who lives in Olympia, Washington. Rick writes a golf column, “The RV Golfer,” which is published every month in rvlife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.