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Golf and lightning

Can I abandon my round if there is lightning?

Stormy weather? Our rules expert tells you how to proceed if you get caught in a flurry of bolts

 

There’s not much that worries me these days. But getting stuck in the middle of a course, carrying a bag full of metal and with the sky lighting up all around me is definitely one of them. Golf and lightning, it goes without saying, do not complement another.

The last time I had a close shave, I could actually feel the heat from the bolt as it forked down about 200 yards behind me. At that point, I didn’t really give two figs about that afternoon’s Stableford. I walked straight off the course and didn’t return.

But what do the Rules of Golf say about lightning? Can you just up sticks and leave, or should I have waited until it all blew over and then got back out there? Let’s reveal all…

Golf and lightning

Can you walk off the course if there is lightning?

Rule 5.7a says you must not stop play unless it’s suspended by the committee, you’ve agreed in match play, or… because of lightning.

As an individual, you can call a halt if you “reasonably believe there is danger from lightning” – but you’ve got to let the competition committee know as soon as possible (you will be DQd if you don’t).

It doesn’t matter if they disagree with you. A clarification to Rule 5.7c says that if your belief is reasonable, “the player is the final judge”.

This changes, though, when the committee, “after using all reasonable means to conclude that danger from lightning no longer exists”, orders play to be resumed.

If you’re not inclined to restart, because you believe there is still a danger, the committee can then “conclude” that your belief is unreasonable.

Fail to get back out there and you could be disqualified under Rule 5.7c.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think about these golf divot rules and golf divots in general? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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