Liability hard to prove in game of golf
A golfer whose ball hit a player in the next group has been held not liable for the injury.
RYAN YONEDA understandably was teed off about being struck in the eye by a wayward shot at the Mililani Golf Course seven years ago. He has learned from the state Supreme Court that such risks are part of the sport, unless the lousy shot was reckless or intentional, or that the golf course's design created the risk. Golfers should take note.
The high court threw out Yoneda's claim against Andrew Tom, who hit the bad shot. However, it restored Yoneda's claim against Sports Shinko, the golf course owner, which could lead to another round in court.
As other courts have ruled, yelling "fore" is no gimme in arriving at a legal decision in favor of the errant golfer. It is a part of golf etiquette and little more, unless the ball is going where the golfer intended. As all golfers know, that is often not the case.
Tom did not yell "fore" when he struck the ball to the left in trying to reach the green at the No. 5 par four because he did not see Yoneda, whose cart was making a U-turn behind a restroom between the No. 5 green and the No. 6 tee. No penalty there.
As for whether the shot was intentional or reckless, Chief Justice Ronald Moon cited a 1997 California appellate court's reasoning: "If every ball behaved as the golfer wished, there would be little 'sport' in the sport of golf."
Signs on some golf courses warning golfers that the course is not liable for damages caused by balls flying into adjoining residences are of questionable worth, unless directed at the homeowners. As a New York appeals court ruled in 1970, "These invasions are the annoyances which must be accepted by one seeking to reside in the serenity and semi-isolation of such a pastoral setting."
Putting a restroom in a spot that interferes with golfers in successive groups from seeing each other at crucial moments calls for another ruling.
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