The Dangers of Golf… or you are Fore Warned…
The liability of a golfer for striking a golf ball is based on predictability of the mishap. In short what might be the “danger zones” (defined as the foreseeable deviation from the intended flight of a golf ball from the actual flight of a golf ball the for a given golfer (aim versus accuracy)?
We have all seen the shots; a shank, a hook, a ricochet off a tree coming for your brother in law’s head who had to dive out of the golf cart to save his cranium. Thus, one can deduce the danger zone for me is anywhere I can reach with my clubbed ball as even behind me you are not safe.
The danger zone of a pro is much smaller than the danger zone for rank armatures like me. If any person, including another golfer, is in the danger zone, a golfer has a duty to warn (typically by the golfer yelling “fore”) prior to striking the golf ball, not after the ball is struck. I was also told “duck and cover” was an accurate but an inappropriate warning!
An old boss of mine some 30 years ago, kept asking a foursome in front of us if we could play through – they kept saying no. A bit later, when this foursome was well down the fairway on a par 5, my boss chose to tee off…. It was a towering shot, a shot one could be proud of even when he did realize his gold ball was heading right at the foursome.. “Fore, fore, fooooore, look out…..” he screamed. The shot took two bounces and as one of the foursome turned around the ball clubbed by my boss hit him square in the forehead – and down he went. My boss ran like heck to see if he was OK, and he was OK, – ticked off but OK, and they did let us play through… At the 19th hole, my boss broke his silence – “If it wasn’t for the guy’s forehead I could have been on the green in 2.” Ahh those tender moments…
If a golfer has a tendency to “shank or hook” a golf ball (striking the golf ball so that the path is significantly different from the intended line of flight) they have an increased duty to notify others. My old boss just hit the ball farther than he thought he would, and did not warn in time. A failure to warn – before you club the ball, is in most jurisdictions a failure to disclose and you can be held liable for injury and damages done by the golf ball to people. Property is a different matter.
In another court decision, a golfer driving off the first tee at a Country Club struck a woman who was hitting golf balls on the practice tee. The Court ruled that a jury could find that the practice tee was in the danger zone, which would require the golfer to give a warning before striking the ball.
It is a lighter look at responsibility we all bear for our actions but drivers the point home. Golf, football, hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse all come with the same responsibility to act within the game and warn others – in advance – of potential injury – even if the injury is not foreseeable to you, such as a future brother-in-law in the gold cart behind me.