Tee’d Off

Golf Course Developments: Tee’d Off Owners, How Do We Limit Exposure?

You are enjoying your morning coffee looking out over the beauty of a dewcovered fairway from the serenity of your home when “bam,” a golf ball careens off your sliding glass door or your roof. Your magic moment is destroyed and your blood pressure rises. Whom do you blame? Is it the golfer who hit the errant shot? Is it the golf club that operates the course? Is it the homeowners association that did not warn you that your home was routinely under attack from golf balls? Or are you to blame, because you did not perform due diligence when you bought the property and believed the prior owner that such incidents “were infrequent.”

From the perspective of a community association located adjacent to a golf course, there is a reasonable probability that the owner will blame the Association. It is all too apparent in present-day society that many people will work hard to avoid taking personal responsibility for anything. The sad truth is that prevalent mentality means that community associations must be ever vigilant in developing strategies to avoid homeowner liability claims.

The most critical issue in ascertaining Association liability for errant golf balls is whether the Association has any control over golf course operation. As a practical matter, it is rare that a community association will have any operational control over the golf course. However, if there is some element of control in the Association, liability to members for property damage and personal injury is a real threat because the Association has an obligation to protect its members from foreseeable harm. Since that scenario is a rarity in the development world, I will focus on the real factors facing community associations and how to effectively insulate the Association from liability.