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Golf Course Protection

VA Golf Course Protection - A Club Responsibility

by Marvin Frydenlund
Executive Director
Lightning Protection Institute

Sometimes golf and lightning can become a dangerous mix. That last hurried drive before the pelting rain may prove to be one that should have been forgotten. Yet, though the danger is by now well known, golfers will stubbornly ignore it, once again address the ball, and tempt the thunderbolt.

Golf course owners and managers,knowing golfers, worry about these questions: Just when is it prudent to insist that players beat a retreat from an approaching thunderstorm? How can golfers be influenced to take personal safety precautions? How far does management's responsibility reach? What is a "prudent and reasonable" safety program — of warning, of protection?

A recent, painful experience shared by Lee Trevino, Jerry Heard, and Bobby Nichols demonstrated the effects of this dangerous combination of popular sport and powerful phenomenon. The three were stunned and burned as lightning struck near them at Butler National Golf Course, Oak Park, 111., during the Western Open. Trevino, Heard and Nichols were far luckier than have been a number of other golfers severely hurt and even killed by lightning this year. Ending without lasting harm, the incident can be used to dramatize critical points:

  • Lightning does not have to strike a person directly to cause injury or severe discomfort. Trevino, Heard and Nichols were victims of lightning's peripheral effects — a high ground potential over a considerable area around the main path of the bolt.
  • Lightning casualties are not rare and uncommon. It was the fame of the golfers, not rarity of the event, that widely publicized this particular lightning strike incident. The odds for this kind of painful but non-fatal casualty were great enough to embrace three men from the top echelon of professionals; many similar unreported incidents occur every year. Prudence varies: Mike Fetchick, fourth party in the Trevino- Heard group, took a look at the darkening skies and decided that danger lurked there. He headed for the clubhouse and safety.
  • Fallacies reign. In the aftermath of the incident at Butler National, interviews with experts on weather phenomena quenched some fallacies about lightning and lightning safety, but unintentionally created others. For example, an electrophysicist correctly stated that the kind of umbrella one carries is only incidental to lightning danger, but then went on to minimize the importance of avoiding tall objects and seeking a low profile.

Today, the roll of legal thunder in courts is signalling a new era of liability for public lightning safety by property owners, including golf courses. Under law, lightning always was an unavoidable "act of God". It still is, but protection against its harm, being possible and available, has become man's responsibility.

The LPI recently conducted a study of 1,000 lightning casualties, of which various recreational areas were the sites for 329. Of that 329, 52 of the cases occurred on golf courses with 41 casualties and 11 deaths.

Of the 329 casualties, many could have been prevented if (1) adequate lightning protection had been provided and (2) warnings about the hazards of lightning had been posted.

A "Duty to Warn" theory is also emerging in the legal area of public liability. In addition to providing adequate shelter against lightning, a property owner may be required to post warnings for the public to seek shelter during an electrical storm.

Here are five steps golf course owners or managers can take to provide "practicable and reasonable" protection against lightning.

  1. Protect open areas distant from the clubhouse by either erecting rain shelters equipped with protection systems, or erect overhead protective wires.
  2. Equip lone trees under which people are likely to seek rain shelter, with special tree protection systems.
  3. Install standard lightning protection systems on the clubhouse, pro shop and other buildings.
  4. Protect and/or ground if metal, flagpoles, towers and similar structures.
  5. Prominently post personal lightning safety rules.

Erecting a rain shelter without lightning protection relieves people of a thunderstorm's damp discomforts, but gathers them as a body to face what may be the storm's only real danger, course is becoming a growing problem for facilities, as members become more aware of the dangers that can occur during a storm. The responsibility for safety will ultimately lie with the course.

Building Protection


CLUBHOUSE PROTECTION - A clubhouse of ordinary construction needs a system of air terminals, 10-in. or higher, mounted on the particular surface, such as (1-a) a through the roof installation on a wood-framed roof; (1-b) a top-mounted masonry base; or (1-c) an adhesive base for mounting on a built-up roof.

Roof conductors (2-a) and down conductors (2-b) interconnect air terminals and provide multiple paths to ground placed according to perimeter dimensions of the building. In deep clay soil, 1/2-in. minimum diameter copper ground rods are driven at least 10-ft. deep, at each down conductor location. A secondary lightning arrester (3) is mounted on the power side of the electric power entrance. And branch conductors (4*) bond rain gutters and other metal bodies to th conducting system.

Structural Steel Buildings


A metal-clad maintenance shop or other building with structural steel framing members that are sufficiently conductive may utilize the framework as part of the lightning protection system. Air terminals are bonded to steel framing at the peak (1); and ground electrodes are bonded to the steel framing at the base (2).

Tree Protection


Trees within 10-ft. of any building are required to be protected if taller than the building. Trees under which golfers might seek rain shelter should be protected to reduce the dangerously high surface ground current of a lightning discharge and bring it out beyond the drip area.

Tree protection systems are copper; aluminum is not permitted under Code LPI-175 since that metal will corrode when in contact with moisture or wet decayed matter for any length of time. Details show lightning protection for a tree with a trunk less than 3-ft. in diameter. Larger trees need two down conductors, one on each side of the trunk.

  1. Main Trunk Air Terminal
  2. Class I or II Full Size Cable
  3. Branch Air Terminal
  4. Secondary Size Cable
  5. Drive Type Cable Clip % 3'-0'
  6. Dsplicer
  7. Ground Rod & Clamp

Suggested Long Form Lightning Protection Specifications

GENERAL — "General Conditions of the Contract" by the A.I.A., current edition, and any supplemental special conditions,are apart of the Specifications for Lightning Protection, as they apply.

The lightning protection system shall conform to the Lightning Protection Institute's Installation Code LPI-t75), which has as a basic requirement compliance with the latest issue of Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. Installation requirements MASTER LABELED LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS (UL96A). Upon completion of the work the lightning protection contractor shall deliver to the Owner, for attachment to the building, the master label issued by underwriters' Laboratories, Inc.

The contractor shall provide a complete system of lightning protection as shown on the drawings and as required for (designate butlding or other), as approved by the Architect and/or Engineer. The system shall be installed by a lightning protection contractor activeily engaged in the installation of U/L Master Label systems, and so listed by the Laboratories. The contractor shall have a minimum of two years of experience in lightning protection installations, and shall be a certified member in good standing of the Lightning Protection Institute.

QUALITY OF MATERIALS - The Lightning Protection Contractor shall submit to the Architect all evidence to establish that materials are manufactured, furnished and recommended for their intended use by a reputable lightning protection manufacturer who is a Manufacturer Member of the Lightning Protection Institute. AH materials used in this installation shall bear the inspection label of Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc.

TYPE OP SYSTEM — Install conductors and complementary parts in a (concealed or semi-concealed) system so completed work is unobtrusive and does not detract from appearance.

AIR TERMINALS — Locate required number of air terminals not less than 10-in. high at no more than 20-ft, intervals.

GROUNDS — Connect each down conductor to a suitable, properly located ground as determined by soil conditions encountered. Assume in bidding that the earth is permanently moist to within 3-ft. of finished grade. If actual conditions vary with this assumption, adjustment will be made by the Owner upon the Architect's approval for any greater expense involved in providing proper grounds.

WITNESS OF GROUND - Complete and file Forms A and B, LPI-175 signed by the Installer or designated agent and consigned by the Owner or designated agent.

CONDUCTORS — Interconnect conductors to provide at least two electric paths to ground. Avoid an upward direction for lateral conductors interconnecting air terminals. Turn conductors with a radius of at least 8-in. at an included angle not more acute than a right angle. Space down conductors around building's periphery as evenly as permitted.

STEEL COLUMNS AS CONDUCTORS - The steel framework of skyscrapers, hospitals, schools, factories, etc., may be utilized as the main down conductors, provided they are electrically continuous. Bond -ait terminals to the steel framework fay conductors fed through the ridge or coping walls, or connect terminals together with a conductor on the exterior of the building. Such a conductor shall be bonded to the steel framework in not less than the same number of places as there are groundings. Make connections to steel framework by bonding plates with a surface contact area of not less than 8 sq. in. boited or welded securely to clean areas of the frame.

FASTENERS — Place fasteners amply strong for rigid, permanent support no more than 3-ft, on center of vertical or down conductors and horizontal conductors.

CONDUCTOR GUARDS — Protect exposed down conductors to 8-ft. above ground with copper or brass pipe firmly fixed to masonry. Connect top of guard electrically to conductor.

GROUNDING METAL ELEMENTS - Bond into protection system all metal caps, breech ings, metal ventilators, vent stacks, pipes, roofing or siding, spandrels, ridge rolls, valleys, crickets, eaves, troughs, downspouts, ducts, clothes chutes, cold water supply piping, and any other metallic object or surface of a size presenting a capacitance hazard. Protect telephone lines, electric service, radio, television or other masts or wires entering the building by establishing a common ground and use of a proper lightning arrester where advisable.

ALUMINUM AND COPPER - Either metal may be used for lightning protection, but never together without special connectors. Nor shall one metal be used in lightning protection on metallic bodies of the other kind. Contact the Lightning Protection Institute for particulars.

HEAVY DUTY SMOKESTACKS - AH materials, including points, connectors, fasteners and conductors within 25-ft. of the stack top shall have a 1/16-in, chemically pure lead covering. Air terminals shall extend not less than 18-in. or more than 30-in. above the rim, and shall be spaced not more than 8-ft. on center about the rim. There shall be two down conductors banded and fastened securely to the stack.

OPEN SHORT FORM SPECIFICATIONS - Furnish all labor, materials and items of service required for the completion of a functional and unobtrusive (concealed or semi-concealed) system of grounds, conductors and air terminals for protection against damage by lightning of (designate type of building, stacks, trees, or other) as approved by the architect, the L.P.I.'s Lightning Protection Installation Code (LPI-175) shall be used as the standard for design and installation of the system. The complete installation must conform in all respects to the current requirements of Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. and all legal labor, insurance or other authorities having jurisdiction. The installing contractor shall have a minimum of two years experience in this specialized work, and shall be a Member in good standing of the Lightning Protection Institute. All materials used shall be furnished and recommended for their intended use by a reputable lightning protection manufacturer who is a Manufacturer Member of the Lightning Protection Institute. Contractor shall com plete and submit LPI Forms 175 — A and B and shall secure and deliver to the owner the U/L Master Label.

Is Your Property At Risk?

Does your computer have a phone line? Have you ever lost data from your hard drive due to a power surge? Are your phone lines and cable TV grounded?

Can your insurance fully compensate you for damaged property, lost possessions, personal injury or lifestyle inconvenience due to a fire or surge damage?

Do you currently have smoke alarms or a security system in your house? Do these make you feel safer and give you peace of mind?

Do you or someone in your household/business know CPR in the event someone is struck by lightning?

Do lightning and thunder scare you or your family. Does your pet sense the danger and hide during a storm?

How fast can the Fire Department respond to an emergency at your residence or business?

Are you certain that lightning hasn't already caused damage to your property? (Orange County Utilities in Florida recently learned that copper plumbing pipes are routinely struck by lightning, which can cause gradual pinhole damage.)

Contact us now to get a free estimate
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