On August 24, 2019, the PGA Championship third round at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta was interrupted by lightning storm. Unfortunately, six spectators were injured and transported to the hospital by ambulances.
This incident is far from being unique. In 1975, three players including Lee Trevino were hit by lightning during the second day of the Western Open on Butler National in Oak Book (Illinois). In June 2001, a spectator is killed by lightning during the first day of the US Open on Hazeltine National in Chaska (Minnesota). Just two months later in August 1991, another spectator is killed on Crooked Stick during the first day the PGA Championship. More recently, deaths were reported from Singapore on Tanah Merah Country Club (2009) and Laguna National (2011).
These examples are far from being comprehensive. It sadly illustrates the limits of lightning prevention: all these golf courses are equipped with lightning detection systems (compulsory in the USA) to alert the players, caddies, staff and spectators to stop playing and seek for shelters. It’s not enough! Appropriate lightning protection systems are available and already installed on hundreds of courses in the USA, in Europe and Asia.
Using the Early Streamer Emission technology, lightning protection of the most sensitive areas (tee off and green) can be designed and installed.
Shamefully, such accidents in 2019 are due to the lack of investment, not fate. Public authorities and golf management association have to consider changing their philosophy and require the installation of proper lightning protection systems on golf courses. Such systems are commonly installed on stadiums. Why golf courses attracting similar attendance (more than 200,000 spectators on major events such as US Open, Ryder Cup, PGA Championship) should not provide the same level of safety?