The Intersection of Golf and the Law

Although it may not be very likely that you will end up talking to a lawyer instead of the 19th hole bartender after a round, it happens more often than you might imagine.

And as a public service, here’s one spot where the law intersects golf with some frequency: a par 3 on a busy course.

Why? Because that’s where the traffic bottlenecks happen, and those make people impatient and short-tempered. Golfers waiting irritably on the tee often don’t wait for the players in front of them to get in their carts and drive away or walk a safe distance from the green after they’ve putted out.

So these golfers on the tee, who feel aggrieved because they’ve been waiting for several minutes, fire away anyway, even if people are still lingering near the green. Sometimes, this is done with purpose — it’s a warning shot meant to get people to move along faster (even though that preceding group probably had to wait as well).

Well, guess what? If you hit somebody in your haste — getting hit with a golf ball often causes severe injuries — you are probably going to be found liable by a court and could pay some significant damages to the person you hit.

“The golfer is responsible for making sure that other golfers are out of the way before they hit,” said Robert Lang, a New York-based lawyer who has handled dozens of golf-related cases. “Yes, it’s true they aren’t responsible for hitting someone one or two holes away because they slice a ball, but if you’re on the tee and someone is near the green of the hole you are aiming at and you hit that person, you’re liable.”

In other words, multiple courts have ruled that golfers aren’t accountable for errant shots, but hitting someone in your intended line of fire is not an accident.

Which leads to public service tip No. 2: Be careful when hitting mulligans ...

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