Turbulent weather across the UK has brought some golf course risks into sharper focus this summer, with course evacuation strategies being very close to the top of the list. So, what do courses need to do, to get this right?


With severe lightning storms having affected many parts of the country, the dangers that lightning poses to golfers out on the course cannot have escaped many clubs.  It is imperative that golfers know and understand the course evacuation procedures and, most importantly, act in accordance with these.

Golf members and visiting players need to be alerted to the danger of lightning through the sounding of a horn or klaxon. It is, therefore, vital that such an instrument exists, that those in charge on a daily basis know where to find and operate it and also that they are aware that they need to sound an alarm should lightning be in the area.

Additionally, if the klaxon runs from a gas canister, it is vital that checks are kept on this, that staff know how to change the canister, if necessary, and that a replacement canister is kept nearby. This all requires both good procedures and staff training.  Forgetting to sound the horn, not being able to locate it and being unable to operate it, could all be fatal.

Those players taking part in a competition should always be reminded of the course’s evacuation procedures before play begins, so a group briefing may be required, or individual briefings provided.  Players need to be aware that they can abandon play, if the horn sounds, marking where their ball was placed, before exiting the green or fairway.

Those players taking part in a competition should always be reminded of the course’s evacuation procedures before play begins, so a group briefing may be required, or individual briefings provided.  Players need to be aware that they can abandon play, if the horn sounds, marking where their ball was placed, before exiting the green or fairway.

Golf course managers also need to consider that awareness of what to do in a lightning storm could be patchy.  They need to remind players that they should:

  • realise they are in great danger if there is less than a 30-second gap between flash and bang during a storm
  • never take shelter under a tree. Lightning strikes would jump from the tree, that is 20% water, to the human body that is 65% water, to find the quickest way to ground.
  • not stand near to (or in) water (e.g. lakes, gullies, streams, sea)
  • never shelter under an umbrella
  • keep as low to the ground as possible
  • make it to a safe shelter, if they can (these should be highlighted in the health and safety guidance provided by the club)
  • crouch low in a bunker, with body as compact as possible, if necessary
  • keep away from metal poles, railings and structures
  • not huddle together, but stay some distance apart, as lightning could pass from one person to the other 
  • be aware that a body will not retain electricity from a lightning strike in the way that it would with a shock from an electricity supply. Try to treat the player or official struck by lightning with a defibrillator, if necessary, and summon immediate medical assistance so that any burns can be treated quickly
  • not operate corded phones in the clubhouse and keep away from windows, electrical equipment, sinks, wash basins, showers and any other sources of wate

In 2017, a golfer died at a course near Ipswich, by sheltering under a tree. Do not make too any assumptions about how much people know when it comes to keeping safe. Freak weather may now be the norm due to climate change, so courses must ensure they brief members, visitors and staff in every regard when it comes to lightning storms and evacuation procedures.

For help with all of your risk management, call 0113 244 8686 or email info@gauntlethealthandsafety.com

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