Help! A golf ball hit my house!
Believe it or not, some residents of a golf community actually think it’s YOUR fault when your drive strikes their humble abode lying just 20 yards right of the fairway.
A few weekends ago I was visiting some friends in town for business in Jacksonville for the weekend with my brother. Though they had a cushy pad at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort (so that’s why accounting fees are so high. . .), finding a tee time or $200 to play it was a long shot, so we found a reasonably priced course down the road, Windsor Parke, a nice public golf community.
The course is extremely penal: someone in our foursome ran out of balls by the 13th. But probably the most laughable thing to happen was on the back nine, when my brother’s drive sailed right and disappeared into the trees. As we rode up to the probable landing zone, a woman came out of her house and stepped across the white O.B. stakes, the only thing separating her backyard from the course.
You would think these white stakes separated Jews and Palestinians, Jon Stewart and conservatives, or Ron Artest and common sense. Because she was clearly not approaching to offer us cider and cookies. She looked visably shaken.
“Excuse me,” she said in a nagging, “I-can’t-believe-you-didn’t-take-your-shoes-off-before-you-came-inside-again” voice. “But your ball hit my house. It almost hit my window.” Adding insult to injury, she went on to say, “You’re wayyyy off track you know.”
Way off track? Your house, along with thousands of others across America nestled so close to the fairway an Olympic long jumper would have a breeze with, is in the way! Did you not get the memo that 90% of golfers can hit the side of a barn (or in this case pool room) but can’t for the life of them keep it in bounds?
This isn’t the only occassion I’ve come across homeowners infuriated with my group’s mishaps (I’m not that bad at golf, really). For most of us, a mishit doesn’t mean a drive rolls barely into the first cut of rough. Most golfers blade wedge shots forty yards over the green, shank 8-irons, and their driver could be deemed a “WMD” in the right country.
Would you buy a loft on Bourbon Street and complain about the noise? Buy an SUV in New York City and rant about the parking? Well, for every luxury an on-course property has, there’s a Top-Flite five yards away from landing in your lemonade. Rather than get upset with the golfer who has opened your eyes to the apparent golf course in your back yard, how about calling your realtor who conned you into this intrusive hell with more resale value. . .or just wear a helmet while gardening.
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Now, based on quite a bit of research I've, the fact is that in some states the golfer is responsible for damage. It can also depend on whether the home or the course was on the books as in development first. Where I live, the golfer is not responsible although I would offer to pay the deductible out of my pocket because I feel like it is the correct thing to do.
As I have told other homeowners in our community though, "You live on a golf course. Your house will get hit with a ball. Get over it."
Maybe the PGA can jump on the steriod bandwagon (lots of publicity) and have mandatory drug testing prior to teeing off.
Show me the money...
the house too??
Situation #1. If a golf course is built AFTER a house, then it should be the GOLF COURSE'S responsibility (as long as the home owner did not have notice that the golf course was going to be built). Tina, you should call an attorney (there should be a trial lawyer's association in your state) and have him or her contact the golf course as soon as possible. Not only should the owner of the course pay for any damage, but the course should also pay for erecting any fences or nets to protect your house and your children. The course should also be responsible for any property value loss caused by an ugly net in your back yard (but this could be offset if your property is worth more because of the golf course).
Situation #2. If a golf course is built BEFORE a house, then it should be the HOME OWNER'S responsibility. The owner clearly assumed this risk when the house was purchased. The owner is able to make changes on their property to minimize damage (planting trees, erecting nets or fences, or putting protective coverings over windows), which the player has no control over. The owner should have a home owner's insurance policy that will cover damage and, depending on the location of the house, a good window repairman.
Situation #3. If the golfer hit a house on purpose or was clearly negligent in some way, then the PLAYER should be responsible. I can't imagine that there would be many situations like this and even fewer that could be proved in a court. If a golfer was trying to hit a house, then the player should be responsible. If a golfer did something negligent, then the player should also be responsible. What would be a negligent golf act? For example, I would think that it should be considered negligent if a ball lands out of bounds and the player hits the ball even though the house is directly in the golf ball’s intended trajectory. I don’t think that a court would ever find that a golfer was negligent as long as he or she was playing within the rules of the game of golf, even if the player was a terrible golfer.
someone's property with a ball (golf ball, baseball, cannon ball, etc) for whatever reason, it's your fault. If you're hitting someone's window who lives 250 yards away, and 130 degrees off the intended trajectory, you would be well advised to find another hobby for yourself. Or, be prepared to pay for the destruction you cause.
I am just looking for more clarification on the whole concept of liability of bad shots/mishaps.
Homes in a golfing community will get hit. Period.
Solution: It's only apt if insurance is included in the green fees.
Golf and the Law
(based on California law)
Recently, my friend broke his hand while playing golf. He had just teed off on the first hole, hitting a beautiful drive 225 yards straight down the middle of the first fairway. As he was preparing to hit his second shot, a hooked tee shot from the parallel tenth hole (separated by a line of trees from the first hole) drilled my friend's left hand, smashing his hand into his five iron which he was about to swing, shattering a few random bones.
Does he have a claim for damages against the golfer hitting the destructive drive from the tenth tee?
No. With almost an identical factual situation, a California appellate court in Dilger v. Moyles (54. Cal. App. 4th, 1997) held that errant or missed golf shots are an inherent risk of the sport of golf and a co-participant in a sport generally has no duty to protect other participants against risks inherent in a sport. Or in the court's own language, "Hitting a golf ball at a high rate of speed involves the very real possibility that the ball will take flight in an unintended direction. If every ball behaved as the golfer wished, there would be little "sport" in the sport of golf. That shots go awry is a risk that all golfers, even the professionals, assume when they play."
Would it make any difference if the golfer with the hooked drive failed to yell "fore" if aware that my friend was in the path of his errant drive?
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is emphatically "no." Again in Dilger, the court concludes that golf etiquette doesn't rise to a level of a duty. In golf, like other sports having inherent risks assumed by a participant, a co-participant is not liable to another participant for his activities unless he intentionally injuries another player or engages in reckless conduct totally outside the range of ordinary activity for the sport. And, the court determines that the failure to yell "fore" does not constitute such reckless or intentional conduct.
Ever wonder if the golf course would be liable to a golfer injured by his or another player's ball ricochetting off a yardage marker?
No, stated the appellate court recently in American Golf v. Becker (79 Cal. App. 4th, 2000). A golfer's ball was located about 5 to 15 yards behind and about 5 to 10 yards to the right of a removable 200 yard upright wooden distance marker. The golfer's partner was seated in their golf cart slightly right of the golfer's ball and about 10 yards behind the ball.
As you suspected, the golfer hooked his ball to the left, hitting the distance marker which caused the ball to ricochet, hitting his partner seated in the golf cart in the eye and causing serious injury. The injured golfer sought damages against the golf course claiming that the assumption of risk defense was not applicable because the course was defectively designed in its use of wooden yardage markers (in lieu of alternative forms of distance markers, e.g., flat plate markers), therefore increasing the risk to golfers beyond the risks inherent in the sport of golf.
The appellate court upheld a summary judgment for the defendant golf course, upholding the trial court's decision that defective design was not a triable issue of fact. Quoting the court,
The duty of a golf course towards a golfer is to provide a reasonably safe golf course. This duty requires the golf course owner to minimize the risks without altering the nature of the sport. Thus the owner of a golf course has an obligation to design a golf course to minimize the risk that players will be hit by golf balls, e.g., by the way the various tees, fairways and greens are aligned or separated. In certain areas of the golf course, because of the alignment or separation of the tee, fairway and/or greens, the golf course owner may also have a duty to provide protection for players from being hit with golf balls where the greatest danger exists and where such an occurrence is reasonably to be expected. . . Golf course's yardage marker system utilizing three visible wooden posts on each side of the fairway is found on 20 to 25 percent of the nation's golf courses. Thus yardage markers are an integral part of the sport of golf, and the yardage marker system used at golf course is standard in the industry. Obstacles, both fixed and removable, are also an integral part of the sport of golf. Because errant shots are an inherent risk of golf and errant shots by definition take flight in unintended directions, golf involves a very real possible that a player will hook or slice a part, the ball will strike a hard obstacle, and the ball will ricochet forcibly. Of course, the risk of ricochet is dramatically reduced where the obstacle in question is removable at the option of the players, if it is in the line of play and poses a danger.... [Golfer] was injured because [his partner] hooked his shot and struck a removable obstacle, which was not in the line of play and had not been removed....Accordingly, golf course had no duty to protect [golfer] from the inherent risk of being hit by an errant shot, and the primary assumption of risk doctrine bars [injured golfer's] action.
And even more recently in Lyons v. City of Los Angeles (2001 Cal. App. Unpub, LEXIS 1850), the appellate court dealt with a rather strange occurrence on the golf course using the principles set forth in American Golf. Lyons, a scratch golfer and a twice a week regular at the Rancho Park Golf Course, a course owned by the City of Los Angeles and considered one of the busiest courses in the nation, apparently anxious to commence her round, teed off in advance of her scheduled tee time with only one other player, even though she knew that starters at this course seldom if ever permitted less than three golfers to commence a round and that a twosome would be completed with persons from the waiting list.
The twosome that was to join her, upon arriving at the tee were told by other golfers waiting to play that the other two players in their group had just teed off. Consequently, the remaining twosome immediately teed off, and, of course, Lyons some one hundred yards down the fairway behind a tree got hit and severely injured by a hooked tee shot from the catching up twosome, even though "fore" was yelled by several persons.
Lyon attempted to circumvent the primary assumption of risk defense utilized by the golf course, by claiming that the golf course had created risks beyond the inherent risks in the sport of golf by failing to have a greeter at the first tee to regulate play. And apparently, Rancho Park Golf Course usually had a greeter at the first tee in addition to the starter located in a booth some 75 yards from the first tee.
The court, however, in upholding the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Los Angeles at trial, stated,
She claims the absence of a greeter increased her risk. On the contrary, Lyons was playing at a course she played often, where foursomes were the norm. When she teed off, there was a threesome in front of her and [other golfer in her group] and a foursome behind them. Her tee time was at 6:12am. The evidence shows she teed off early. Her assertion that she was simply obeying course rules concerning pace of play misses the point. She made the decision to tee off. If, as her testimony suggests, there was, as there should have been, a question in her mind about the propriety of teeing off as a twosome, the starter's window was 75 yards away. She did not check with the starter. Accordingly, when she teed off, she fully assumed the risk of teeing off early, knowing her start time had not arrived, At that point, there was distinct possibility, if not probability, that her foursome, or at least a threesome, would subsequently be completed.
Is the golfer or the course liable for golfer's errant shot striking a person in the backyard of a house adjacent to the golf course?
In Hernandez v. Ong (2002 Cal App. Unpub LEXIS 3633) decided in February, 2002, the court absolved both the golfer and the golf course for such injury. The court essentially finds that a person living in a course adjacent house is to be treated like a spectator at a sporting event, i.e., as a participant in the sport subjecting himself to "certain risks necessarily and usually incident to and inherent in the game." The court states,
We also conclude the assumption of risk doctrine as applied to spectators at a sporting event also applies to those who occupy houses adjacent to existing golf courses...Although not a spectator of the golf being played, one who moves into a house that is adjacent to an existing golf course chooses, as a spectator does, to participate in the benefits of the golf courses' pastoral setting and accepts the inherent dangers of such participation. So long as the course has been designed and maintained as a reasonably safe golf course consistent with the risks inherent in the sport, the course will have no liability to an adjacent homeowner. Similarly, if the resident of a golf course adjacent house is viewed as a participant in the sport, then the golfer hitting the errant ball is free from liability, as mishit golf shots are an inherent part of the sport.
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Home owners on Golf Courses have a responsibility to design their homes with considerations to the directions balls are hit from. I wouldn't build a house with big expensive windows on the side where golf balls are being hit from nor put in a bunch of solar panels on my roof. Don't force bad design on a golf course just because you think you can.
Golf Course management has a responsibility to ensure course layout does not contribute to bad placed shots and homes. They should also try to provide natural screening, shrubs and trees, around houses that are at potential risk.
Everyone should take responsibility to limit the issue and stop looking to blame each other.
Houses and flying hard balls mix about as well as pepperspray and eyeballs.
And no matter how much you rant about controlling the golfball realistally a certain number always get sliced like crazy. Any of you who think otherwise just forgot how bad you were the first few years you played.