Bill Menninger watched the sky clear and assumed it was safe to finish his round last July at Aspen Valley Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. "Next thing I know I was on the ground," said Menninger, who suffered minor injuries when lightning seemed to come out of nowhere and struck the tree next to him.
Ronald Holle, a lightning expert, says "lightning can travel as far as 10 miles from a thunder storm, so just because the clouds pass doesn't mean you're in the clear." Instead, follow the 30-30 rule: Seek shelter if you hear thunder within 30 seconds after seeing lightning, and wait 30 minutes after lightning subsides before going out.
If you're caught in a storm, get inside as quickly as possible. "The only safe places are enclosed buildings or cars with the doors closed and windows up," Holle says.
Contrary to popular belief, metal doesn't attract lightning. "Tall, isolated objects attract it," Holle says. "The idea that carrying golf clubs will increase your chances of being struck isn't proven."
MORE MYTHS DEBUNKED
MYTH: The rubber tires on a golf cart will protect you from a lightning strike.
REALITY: Bolts pack up to two billion volts of electricity. Small rubber tires offer little protection.
MYTH: Sitting under a rain shelter is safer than standing in the middle of the fairway.
REALITY: Because of their height, rain shelters are easy targets. Don't ride it out under one.
MYTH: You can get electrocuted if you touch a person who was just struck.
REALITY: Electricity exits the body in milliseconds. Help a lightning victim ASAP.
MYTH: You're more likely to win Powerball than get struck by lightning, so you don't need to take cover when a storm approaches.
REALITY: Lightning is second to floods as the leading cause of storm-related deaths, killing 40 to 60 a year in the U.S.
MYTH: If you get injured by lightning while playing, you can sue the course if it didn't warn you about the impending storm.
REALITY: Courses aren't required to warn or protect golfers from lightning storms. You can sue, but you likely won't win.
MYTH: The intense pain from a high-voltage shock is what kills you.
REALITY: As electricity goes through the body, it often causes the heart to stop.