I have frequently been asked if a golfer who hits a shot that strikes another golfer is responsible for injuries.
Unfortunately, as is true in many areas of the law, there is no black and white answer and the answer is it depends on the circumstances.
As Milwaukee personal injury attorneys, our team wants to help you stay informed on legal issues. Take a look below to get the facts on golf.
The Legal Side
The general rule is a golfer is liable for causing injury to another if the golfer acts negligently or carelessly. It has been said that golf is a game of exact precision. The slightest deviation of the club from a perfect position during the swing will cause a golf ball to do many peculiar things. It is apt to slice, it is apt to pull or hook or travel straight at an angle. With ordinary players this frequently takes place. Accordingly, hitting an errant or poor shot that strikes an individual is not negligence or carelessness. A golfer doing nothing more than hitting an errant or poor shot is not negligent and as a result, is not responsible for injuries caused by their golf ball striking another.
There are some circumstances, however, where a golfer can be liable for injuries caused by their shot.
Rules of the Game and Golf Etiquette Matters
Golfers may also be liable if they violate golf rules or etiquette. For example, if a golfer drops a second ball to “take a mulligan” without warning others in his group that he intends to do so and then hits a shot striking one of his group who walked ahead, the golfer is likely responsible for injuries caused. The decision to hit or wait until golfers ahead are out of range is extremely important. If a golfer mistakenly concludes that the players ahead are out of range, but then hits a shot further than expected, the golfer will likely be responsible for injuries caused by such a shot. Likewise, a golfer may be liable for injuries if he fails to warn of an errant shot.
If failure to exercise ordinary care causes injury
to someone else, the person who failed to use reasonable
care can be held liable for damages.
In golf, it is a players duty to timely warn other individuals within the foreseeable area of danger posed by a driven ball. This means that before driving a ball, a player must give timely warning to other individuals. This warning is a part of exercising ordinary care, especially when others are in the line or close to the line of the player’s intended ball flight. More importantly, once it becomes clear that the driven ball is errant a golfer has a duty to call out the traditional “fore” to warn others of the errant flight. Failure to warn after an errant shot is struck may also expose a golfer to liability for injuries.
In summary, a golfer is not responsible for simply hitting an errant or poor shot. A golfer is likely responsible for another’s injury when a golfer has made a poor decision as to if and when he decides to hit his shot, fails to warn after an errant shot is struck, or disregards traditional golf rules, etiquette or local course rules.
Make Sure You Know the Local Rule Book
Many golf courses have what are called “local rules.” For example, if course management notes that an area, such as a tee on a nearby hole, is often the area where errant shots will end up, there may be a local rule requiring golfers to wait to tee off until the tee on the nearby hole is clear. Should a golfer choose to ignore the course rule and hit before the nearby tee is cleared, they will be in violation of the course rule and would likely be responsible for injuries caused by their shot.
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