- In terms of what happens if a golfer breaks your window, unless the golfer aims at the property on purpose, neither the golf course nor the golfer is responsible
- When a homeowner purchases a home, they assume all risks associated with it
- The golfer who destroyed your window should accept responsibility for the cost, but she is not legally responsible if she was following the rules of play
- Although golfers need to take care while playing, bad shots are bound to happen every now and then – even for the best players
- If a golfer’s shot results in damage and it is determined that they were acting negligently, they would be held responsible for said damages
- The same goes for homeowners who live in community associations with golf courses; your governing documents will likely have provisions addressing this very issue
I was out playing a casual round of golf with my buddies when I hit a wild shot that ended up smashing the window of somebody’s house on the golf course. I felt awful and knew I had to take responsibility for what I had done.
Even though I wasn’t legally liable for the damage, I still rang their doorbell and offered to pay for it which they accepted. It was a relief to be able to take care of everything quickly and not have to deal with any potential legal issues.
Hopefully this story will serve as a warning to others who might find themselves in a similar situation – always take responsibility for your actions, no matter what!
We’ve all heard the phrase “Golfers break windows.” But what happens legally?
What happens if a golfer breaks a window
1. The golfer is not strictly liable for the window damage
The property owner can’t sue the golfer. Even if the golf ball hit a window and damaged it, the golf course and its governing bodies aren’t liable for your damages (only negligent care or gross negligence on their part could result in liability). Also, the golfer (or his club) can’t be held strictly liable for damage to the tool shed, trash cans, trees, or other items that might have been in sight of the ball.
2. If any, the golf course is only liable for negligence
Under Golf’s Rule, the golf course (i.e., the legal owner of the land) owes a duty of reasonable care to you for injuries caused by its sand traps or water hazards. It can only be sued for negligence (i.e., if it fails to take reasonable care to protect you from potential dangers on its course), and even then, it might have defenses available to it.
3. The golf club/golf course could be liable under Club’s Rule
The golf club and its governing bodies owe a higher duty to protect you from injury on their property (i.e., a strict liability standard, not negligence). So if the damage occurred while playing on the golf course, then Club’s Rule applies. The property owner can sue for the total damages caused by its sand traps or water hazards (including property damage). However, you might also have some defenses available to you in that situation.
4. You can’t sue the golf course if it’s not part of a country club
Although most golfers are members of country clubs, they may not have liability insurance. The golf course has no responsibility to pay you for damages if it can’t afford them.
5. If an object in your yard caused the damage, you can’t sue the golf course – even if its employees hit the thing with their golf ball
If your property is next to a public or private golf course, then any item left on your property could be hit and broken by a wayward ball. For example, you may have a trash bin or tool shed in your yard that a stray ball could damage. Under the law, you can’t sue the golf course for any damages to your property.
What are Golf’s Rule and Club’s Rule?
The golfer might not be liable for damages under either rule (i.e., he can’t be sued by the property owner). But the golf club and its governing bodies might be liable under either (or both) rules.
The golfer is legally responsible for any damage his ball causes, except for damage to a sand trap or water hazard. However, this rule does not apply if the golfing area is not maintained correctly. In that case, the golfer cannot be held responsible for injuries caused by a hidden danger (i.e., a buried rock or broken tree limb). Also, Golf’s Rule is only enforceable on property owned by the golf course itself (i.e., not on a homeowner’s property).
The golf club and its governing bodies owe a higher duty of care (i.e., a stricter legal standard) to golfers and their property. Most clubs have adopted this rule as part of the Golf Association. When using the course, golfers must take reasonable steps to protect them from dangerous conditions on course premises or in its vicinities.
Advantages of each rule
The primary advantage to the golfer is that he can only be held strictly liable if the damage occurred while hitting out of a sand trap or water hazard (but not if it occurred on his fairway or green). And even in that situation, he might have some defenses available.
The ruling that the golfer is not strictly liable under Golf’s Rule is often used as a defense in tort cases (i.e., lawsuits for injury or property damage). If a golfer causes damage under Golf’s Rule, the homeowner’s only recourse is to sue the golf course (usually owned by a corporation) for negligence. In other words, the homeowner must prove that the golf course was grossly negligent.
The golfer is only strictly liable for damage to water hazards, sand traps, and other items next to the golf course. A property owner can only sue the golf club and its governing bodies for negligence or gross negligence.
Hi, my name is Vince Richmond and I am the owner of earlygolfer.com. This blog is all about golfing, from tips and tricks to equipment reviews and everything in between. I have been golfing for over 20 years now and love the sport more than ever. I am always looking to improve my game and help others do the same. When I’m not golfing, I can be found spending time with my wife and two kids or playing some other sport (I’m a bit of a sports junkie). Thanks for reading and be sure to check out earlygolfer.com for all your golfing needs!