Case Histories

Facts and




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Don't get
Caught on the Fairway
During a Lightning Storm

You're out on the fairway when a lightning storm catches you too far from the clubhouse, what do you do?  It's clear once you understand the physics of electricity and electrical conductors.

Electricity follows the path of least resistance so it's good to know what is and is not a good electrical resistor (the opposite of a good conductor).

A steel flagpole is a poor resistor and a good conductor of electricity and, since it's mounted on the ground where lightning ultimately is headed, it's likely to get hit by lightning in a local storm.

How about a tree?  A tree is not a very good conductor of electricity, but it is usually very tall and a better conductor than air is so it's likely to get hit only because of it's size.  Okay now how about a tree standing beside a steel flagpole?  Yep, the flagpole will in all probability get nailed with a lightning bolt before the tree would. 

How about a human?  Well, I'm sorry to say that a human is a pretty good conductor of electricity and that's not good.  Why is a human a good conductor?  It's the same reason humans can get high blood pressure -- too much salt in their systems.  A human like any animal is mostly water with a lot of ionizing minerals like salt and that makes a better conductor than a tree which has sap (water with a little sugar).  So which will be hit a human or the tree that he or she happens to be standing under?  The answer is both!  The tree will get nailed first because it's standing the tallest, but likely the lightning will jump from the tree to the human because five or six feet of tree trunk has more resistance to electricity than five or six feet of human.

How about a short human standing right beside a tall human?   Well, this in the only time in life that a short person has a better chance than a tall one.  The whole physics of lightning and conductors should make it perfectly clear that if you are caught out on a fairway in a lightning storm you should get at least 40 feet away from any tall object and get as short as possible as quickly as possible.   If you have your clubs on a hand cart leave the cart standing so it will attract the lightning (steel shaft or carbon shaft clubs are good conductors) and get at least 40 feet away from it and squat down low with your hands over your ears to avoid deafness. Treat an electric golfcart the same way.

Yes, you will look like a total fool but think of how you will look if your pals find you on the ground after being hit by a lightning bolt, unconscious, out flat, and smoking like cigarette butt in an ashtray.

Remember, if you're standing out in the open on a fairway in a lightning storm your odds of getting hit by a lightning bolt are better than for drawing a full house in a hand of poker.  If you're standing under a tree your odds of getting hit are better than for drawing a pair of kings. What kind of gambler are you?