Golf course safety – Who is liable for injury, the player or the facility?

At CCI Safety Fencing, we understand that golf may seem like a less dangerous sport compared to others.

We also recognize the potential risks faced by golfers and spectators on the golf course and how golf safety screens can mitigate this risk.

 Last year, Golf Digest reported that over 40,000 golfers were brought to the hospital with injuries in the United States alone, most caused by stray golf balls. And we all remember too well the spectator hit in the eye and blinded by Brooks Koepka’s tee shot on the sixth hole at last year’s Ryder Cup.

Golf Safety Screens

 With that fresh in mind, many may now wonder, what is the situation with regard to liability when someone has caused an injury on or around the golf course? Are injuries as a result of a wayward shot the responsibility of the golfer, the facility, or neither?

 To protect ourselves, our players, and our spectators, it is important to consider the use of safety measures in the event of an injury caused by a wayward shot on the golf course.

In Australia, there are few reported cases of golf-related injuries in legal literature, despite hospital records showing a range of injuries being treated every year.

It is suggested that many golf-related personal injury cases are either not pursued or are settled outside of court.

One of few cases registered in Australia occurred back in 1994, when amateur player Glen Thomas Ollier was playing in a charity golf game at the Magnetic Island Country Club, off Townsville. Ollier was hit in the head by a stray shot and suffered serious permanent brain damage. He was later awarded $2.6 million in damages by the Supreme Court in Townsville.

 But the award was made against the player who hit the ball, not the golf course. Mr Ollier had however sued the golf club at trial, too, but this was dismissed and was not challenged on appeal.

 Why so?

 To understand the liability of the club we need to know about the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

Much simplified, the Occupiers’ Liability Act says that clubs must provide golfers and visitors a reasonably safe environment to play golf. This means that golf clubs must warn, or make golfers aware of, foreseeable dangers of which they might otherwise be unaware. In addition to the warning, there may be other actions that need to be taken to meet the club’s duty of care.

It is when a club is seen to fail in this duty it may be taken to a civil court. The claim would be that the club had acted negligently.

For a claim to succeed three components are needed. The club needs to breach the duty of care (careless conduct), there needs to be a causal connection between that conduct and the damage, and it was foreseeable that such conduct would inflict that kind of damage on the person harmed.

If the duty and these three elements are established, then negligence is established. Thereafter, consideration must be given to the extent of the defendant’s responsibility.

To ensure duty of care is upheld, golf clubs should implement a number of recommendations to protect themselves and all visitors on the premises. The golf club should carry out a formal recorded risk assessment of the course, and ensure that there are explicit warning signs, golf safety screens, and fences to contain errant golf balls in and outside of the playing area, preferably on the course, where there are foreseeable risks. Clubs should also encourage golfers to report near misses.

In order to ensure a safe environment for golfers and visitors, CCI Safety Fencing follows the Occupiers’ Liability Act, which requires us to provide a reasonably safe environment for golf and to warn of any foreseeable dangers.

We also carry out a formal recorded risk assessment of the course, post explicit warning signs, and encourage the reporting of near misses.

In the case of professional tournaments, event organizers must also assess the risk and take measures to reduce it to the lowest level reasonably practicable. This may include the use of golf safety screens and netting. Items such as Safety Screens are certainly a way for a club to minimise its risk.

Article Credit from our friends at golfindustrycentral

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