Can you abandon your round in an electrical storm?


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…

Rules of Golf explained: Golf and 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.

It doesn’t matter if they disagree with you. An interpretation 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.

Have a question for our Rules of Golf expert?

Despite the simplification of the Rules of Golf at the beginning of 2019, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. And as I’ve passed the R&A’s level 2 rules exam with distinction, I am more than happy to help.

If you’ve sent me an email and are yet to hear back from me, I will try to answer your query. I’m still inundated with requests and trying to get through them.

Just to reiterate, I continue to receive emails from players hoping I can intervene in a club rules dispute. For fairly obvious reasons, I can’t do that and would direct those players either to their county or to the rules department at the R&A for a definitive judgement.

Click here for the full Rules of Golf explained archive and details of how to submit a question to our expert.

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