Experiments

Metal Golf Cleats Attract Lightning

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Blind Driving."
Last Resort/Getty Images

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: Ever since the 1975 Western Open, golfers have had good reason to fear thunderstorms. During the tournament, not one but three competitors — Lee Trevino, Jerry Heard and Bobby Nichols — were all struck by lightning. Why the freak incident? Their metal golf clubs essentially doubled as lightning rods, attracting the storm's flashiest wrath.

But is it possible that the metal spikes in their shoes put the golfers at a higher risk of being struck?

MythBusters Kari Byron, Grant Imahara and Tori Belleci put this electrifying question to the test by outfitting one dummy with metal golf cleats and another with plastic for a comparison. Before subjecting them simultaneously to lightning, the team filled the dummies with ballistics gel, a specialized gelatin with the viscosity and density of human muscle tissue. That gave the props the same electrical resistance to lightning as people, minimizing any chance the experimental results would be skewed.

Instead of waiting for a thunderstorm, the MythBusters took their dummy golfers to an electrical test facility to find out if lightning-like bolts of electricity would consistently favor the metal cleats over the plastic ones. Yet during the first round, the plastic shoes were struck six out of 10 times, indicating that the metal cleats weren't more lightning friendly. Even after blinging out the metal-clad mannequin with extra hardware, the plastic cleats still attracted two out of 10 lightning bolts, effectively busting the myth by proving that the metal spikes wouldn't automatically make you more vulnerable.

Golfers should still play it safe and put away the clubs when a storm comes around, but they don't need to worry about what's on their feet.

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