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What Happens if I Hit a House When I’m Golfing? Make Sure to Hit ‘Em Straight!

Have you ever wondered what happens if you hit house when you’re golfing?

It probably isn’t the first thing you think of when playing golf. In fact, the last thing you might want to consider when you are teeing off, trying to focus on getting that perfect drive, is the possibility of slicing your shot and breaking the window of that nice and expensive house right off the fairway. But things don’t always go as planned, and more often than any of us would like to admit on the golf course. So the question arises, what if any liability do you incur if one of your golf balls is errant and causes  property damage. The answer, unfortunately, is not as simple or cut and dry as you might think.  In fact it is about as complicated as hitting a fifty (50) foot hook out of the woods on the 10th hole at Augusta.  Okay maybe not that complicated. 

The fact is that the law regarding liability for property damage caused by errant golf balls is hazy at best. The law varies from state to state and often on a case by case basis. Some courts believe that the golfer is always responsible for any damage he/she causes to personal property while golfing. You break a window, you pay for it. The flip side of that coin is that homeowners should bear responsibility for golf ball damage since they assumed obvious risk by deciding to purchase a home near a golf course. Additionally, homeowner’s insurance may handle the damage. In some cases it can be a combination of the two.

There is a third possibility; the golf course itself could be at fault. In some cases, homeowners have brought suit against golf courses and won. The grounds of these lawsuits usually either pertain to a golf course being constructed too near to houses that already exist, or more commonly, they are based on poorly designed holes and tee boxes that place houses in obvious danger that could have been avoided. In these cases, both the golfer and the homeowner may escape liability, even if the courses posted rules stating they are not liable for damages.

The trend in Washington seems to be favoring homeowners, making golfers responsible for property damage their unlucky slices might cause. To those that argue the homeowner’s insurance should cover the damage, the response is that homeowners pay a high premium on insurance to cover their property, not because they are responsible for the damage, but because getting a golfer to pay for the damage they cause is not always possible. While golfers might be liable for the damage, proving that an individual golfer was the cause of such damage can be very tricky. When the sound of breaking glass is heard, many players pick up their bag and hustle away to the next hole instead of knocking on the door and taking responsibility for their poor aim. In these situations, homeowners are left with little option other than to pay the deductible and have their insurance pay for the costs of repairs.

It is important to note that, while the applicable law is based on where you are playing, one common approach to liability on the golf course is that golfers are liable if they are negligent or do not use reasonable care when taking their shots. Essentially what this means is that if the player is not making sensible choices, such as teeing off in the wrong direction, purposefully aiming at a house or car, deciding to cut across a dogleg that puts personal property in jeopardy, then they should be liable for damages caused by their unreasonable actions. In some instances, the decision to take a mulligan (do over) shot has been held to be an unreasonable decision if the result is property damage.

So regardless of what jurisdiction you are golfing in, one way to make everybody happy, the homeowner, golf course and especially and most importantly you the golfer seeking to better that score  is to be sure that you “Hit ‘Em Straight.”



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