Why you might need golf insurance

Today's tip is most important for those of you who play golf outside the United States.

Unlike here, you could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages if the golf ball you hit injures someone.

Here in the States, as long as you haven't done something "grossly negligent" or "intentionally reckless," you're generally insulated from injury liability.

But that's not necessarily the case overseas.

Take for example, Scotland, where one golfer -- despite yelling "fore" -- was ordered to pay £278,000 to another golfer he accidentally blinded in one eye.

There have been similar rulings in England, where a golfer yelled fore as his ball ping-ponged off some trees before striking another player in the eye...100 yards away...in the next fairway.

He had to pay up, too.

In this precedent-setting case, England's Court of Appeal ruled in 1998 that, "golfers are liable for shots that cause injury, no matter how slight the risk."

Since then, there's evidence these types of claims are on the rise.

Clearly, when playing overseas, the rules of golf may be the same, but the legal rulings regarding injury are often very different.

Likewise, I read that most household insurance policies in the UK don't include coverage for personal liability while playing golf or similar sports.

No surprise, there are now dozens of companies over there selling "specialist golf insurance" policies, including Golfplan, Golf Care, Carrick Neill, and The Golfer's Club.

According to Mike Connolly of Vineland, N.J.-based Heritage Insurance, "many -- but not all -- standard broad or special form homeowners' policies sold here do extend coverage outside the USA. But, the language is relatively new, so it's best to review or update your policy with your agent."

If you don't have a homeowner's policy (or other form of personal liability coverage) Connolly advises purchasing it. "That $50 dollars could save you $50,000 or more."

I'd love your opinion on the broader part of this matter.

Should everyone assume a certain amount of risk when playing golf?

Or, should everyone be liable for shots that cause injury, regardless if they are complete accidents?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
12 Comments
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Pablo R

Here in Spain, the player needs to have a licence, sold by the federation that includes an accident and Civil Responability. If you are a visitor you need to by a temporary one day one, when you play. So the responsability remains more in the player, that in the owner of a house outside the golf área.

Jerry K

Where can I get the insurance? Is it offerred as part of a travel package? How about stateside, for we renters?

I've played a few courses where a state highway passes along side the fairway. A hook will send the ball flying into the roadway. A passing car could easily be struck. Should the course be held responsible? They could erect a screen to protect from errant shots?

It is not small matter to have a projectile smash into a car window. Clearly the golfer is at fault and has the responsibility to pay. But in my view, where negligence is obvious, so too does the golf course.

TOM SCHRADER

HOW DO THEY MAKE YOU PAY WHEN YOUR OVERSEAS . TAKE YOUR PASSPORT?

Gerry S

Some of those commenting have forgotten common courtesy. If one breaks a window in a home near a course, proper behavior dictates that he offer to pay for replacement of the window. Similarly, if I scratch another car in a parking lot, I am required by courtesy or gentlemanly behavior to leave a note and offer to pay for the repair of the scratch. That a person may choose to live on a golf course is no more relevant than choosing to park in a public lot.

Dano

Why single out golf when you are much more likely to be hit by an errant tennis ball than by an errand golf shot? Can a spectator sue the player who "intentionally" fired an over head smash into the stands knowing it would likely strike a spectator? How about a soccer ball struck over the net into spectators? We all know the potential of being struck yet attend realizing this possibility. Who owns the burden of proof and what keeps a person from claiming injury with no witnesses to corroborate their claim?
Insurance Companies will always have reasons to sell more coverage

Robert

I think if you choose to live on a golf course or play on one you should assume reasonable responsibility for your own property and health. Casual golfers will hit stray shots (even the pros do sometimes) unless they are grossly negligent I do not think the golfer should be liable for any damage caused.

Joe

While we might like to think that there is a "implied acceptance of risk" if you bought a house on a golf course, that is not the case. On many courses here in Texas there are signs posted that golfers are responsible for their golf balls and any damage they cause. Your homeowners insurance (and/or other liability insurance) should cover you (less deductibles of course) but I would bet most times you would loose in court if you were sued.

We now live in a country where someone must always be at fault. Just remember the woman that spilled hot tea on herself in a MacDonalds drive thru and successfully sued because the tea was too hot. Insane!

RR

A fan struck by a golf ball or baseball at a professional event is never compensated. Why should a fellow golfer/player? If there is no intent or recklessness, then why should it be considered anything but an act of God? If you choose to take "part" in this world, your safety is unwarranted, I believe. Should we carry an insurance policy for every type of contact we have with another?

Hans Berntson

Here in Sweden any member of a club associated with the Swedish Golf Association is covered both ways. I guess that is limited to when playing in Sweden. I assume that there is a liability coverage in any normal home insurance, at least there is in mine.
On a more positive note, I am also covered for expences following a hole-in-one made i competition. Unfortunately that was to little avail two weeks ago when after the round I found out that the bar was out of stock!

Bob L

Re golf insurance, I believe there is shared liability and therefore the insurance is appropriate. If the injured party had been somewhere else then he would not have been injured by your ball. However, you hit the ball that ultimately caused the injury. The injury was a consequence of the actions of both parties. As to the relative faults of being the hitee and the hitter, that takes more info and an "impartial" judge/third party.

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