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Lightning Doesn't Call "Fore!"

Golfers in the open at high risk of being struck

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SUNDAY, June 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The next time you head out for a round of golf, check the sky before you tee off.

If there's any sign of lightning activity, you might want to do some indoor putting instead.

Golfers can be especially at risk from lightning because they spend so much time on wide-open golf courses during the summer, when lightning is most common.

The National Lightning Safety Institute (NLSI) says people on golf courses account for about 5 percent of lightning deaths and injuries each year in the United States.

During the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 73 people and injured hundreds each year in the United States, says the U.S. National Weather Service.

If you're out on the golf course, the NLSI offers a simple rule about lightning. If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it (thunder), clear it. Or you can use the flash-to-bang method. Start counting after you see lightning and stop counting when you hear the resulting thunder.

Every five seconds you count represents a mile. For example, if you count 35 seconds, that means the lightning is seven miles away from you.

The NLSI recommends you stop your golf game and seek shelter when lightning is within six miles of your location.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) offers the following advice when you're out on the course and lightning is in the area. You should head for the clubhouse, maintenance and other on-course buildings, lightning shelters (if available) or your car. (Get in it, don't lean against it.)

If you can't make it to such shelter, move to dense woods or low-lying areas. And if you're stuck out on the fairway, crouch and get on the balls of your feet; that way, there's less of you to conduct electricity.

Avoid isolated trees, elevated ground, open areas, water, metal, wire fences, golf carts and maintenance machinery. Remember that raising a golf club or an umbrella above your head increases your risk of being struck by lightning.

More information

Learn more about lightning safety at the U.S. National Weather Service.

SOURCES: National Lightning Safety Institute; United States Golf Association; U.S. National Weather Service
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