Ever since the emergence of Tiger Woods, the game of golf has grown in popularity, turning it into one of America’s favorite past-times. According to the National Golf Foundation, an estimated 25.7 million Americans played at least one round of golf last year, on the estimated 1600 golf courses in America. According to AARP there are a total of 277 golf courses just in the state of Kentucky alone and 1055 in the state of Florida.
Golf is played by young and old alike, but many people have no clue how dangerous the game of golf can be while they are out chasing that little white ball up and down that fairway. To prove my point, just Google the words “Golf + Accident + Attorney” and you will find 13 million results, as there appears to be an attorney on just about every street corner advertising himself or herself as a personal injury attorney specializing in golf course accidents.
Here are some recent headlines that I found while researching this subject:
* A prominent attorney from north suburban Kenilworth was crushed to death by a golf cart in an accident that occurred in Skokie, Ill.
* A male golfer, aged 65, died after his playing group was struck by lightning at Hawks Nest golf course, north of Newcastle
* Golfer died Saturday after being hit on the head with a golf ball at a country club
* Two people in two days were killed after being thrown from golf carts in separate incidents at Beech Bend Park
* Man nearly dies after being stabbed with a golf club shaft after a brawl started from an argument about playing through strong winds were to blame for the deaths of two golfers when a tree fell on their golf cart in Nashville, Tenn.
* Senior Vice President TD Bank died from head trauma Friday after falling from a moving golf cart
* Man receives compound skull fracture after being struck by a golf club during a practice swing near a tee
* Man Survives Alligator Attack on Florida Golf Course
* A teenager who hit a bench with his golf club in a fit of frustration was killed when the club’s shaft broke, bounced back and pierced his heart
* A 46-year-old man attacked by a swarm of bees Friday night at a west-side park has died from the stings
* A 23-year-old Abilene woman died after a tragic incident at Fairway Oaks Golf Course Friday night when her golf cart tipped over as the driver came down a steep embankment after making a sharp turn
* A maintenance worker dies at a central Florida golf course who was struck in the temple with an errant golf ball
* Golfer was bitten twice in the head by a rattlesnake as he tried to pick up a golf ball
Personally the biggest hazard you will find with me is stepping into one of my divots and breaking an ankle. On a serious note as it turns out thousands of people are injured every year, sometimes seriously, or even killed while playing golf. These incidents occur, as evidenced by the headlines, from a variety of causes: errant golf shots, golf club mishaps, lightning strikes, or even snake, bee and alligator attacks. Some of the more severe incidents today involve golf cart accidents that include strangulations, rollovers, cart collisions, drowning and head traumas.
Many of these accidents are litigated as one golfer was recently awarded $1.9M in a jury trial verdict after sustaining a severe neck injury. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, who was clothes-lined while driving into a roped-off section at dusk, which had been barricaded to prevent access on to a newly seeded fairway.
Golf courses are typically thought of as places of recreation and sport, however on average, 17 golf course employees are also killed every year, according to a recent U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, and those numbers are climbing. Therefore, just like any business the green fees charged for a round of golf today are associated with the expenses that it costs to stay in business, and one of those more costly expenses is insurance, which is tied to all these associated liabilities on the golf course.
In my line of work I have worked with several different types of industries and businesses, and I have completed my fair share of golf course safety inspections as well. Yes it’s a tough job, but somebody has got to do it.
Many public and private golf courses today go to great lengths to protect their members and guests, as many have redesigned their courses and cart paths with safety in mind, erected netting, governed the speed limits on their carts, improved their preventive maintenance on carts, posted warning signs, installed lightning detectors and sirens, built storm shelters and increased their course marshall patrols.
The most common golf course injuries are those that involve players being hit by errant golf balls, and as a golfer you can be held personally liable.
Many golfers today are unaware of this liability; they assume when they visit their favorite courses, as negligence principles usually govern a civil action brought by an injured golfer. Actionable negligence may occur from an omission or commission of an act if a reasonable golfer could foresee that the act or omission might cause injury to another person on the course.
In a circumstance where a person is struck by an errant golf ball, the universal rule is that the golfer hitting the ball is under a duty to exercise “ordinary care” for the safety of persons reasonably within the zone of danger of being struck by a golf ball. Ordinary care places a duty on the golfer striking a golf ball to timely and sufficiently alert person(s) “within the foreseeable ambit of danger” of being struck by the ball if those person(s) are unaware the golfer intends to hit his ball, and the golfer knows or should know of their unawareness. Regardless of the duty to warn prior to striking the ball, a duty to warn others in the vicinity exists after striking the ball if it becomes apparent that the shot is errant. The traditional warning given by golfers in this situation is to yell “fore” immediately after a few choice cuss words.
It’s funny how attorneys can take the fun out of such a sport as you can just about trip over one on just about every green on any given Saturday, but this is the society in which we live in today. If you don’t carry enough insurance or have a personal umbrella policy you may be just handing over your shirt to these attorneys, so call your local agent and inquire about beefing up you insurance, especially if you have a hook in that swing like I do.
Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.