Golf Course Liable For Escaping Golf Balls

Published date14 April 2023
Subject MatterMedia, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment, Real Estate and Construction, Sport, Real Estate
Law FirmGardiner Roberts LLP
AuthorMr Stephen Thiele

Owning a property bordering a golf course comes with the risk that a mishit golf ball might land thereon or, worse, strike a homeowner's house, other object or person and cause damages. Although golf courses are designed to minimize the chances of a mishit ball venturing too far off course, golfers of varying skill may be unable to properly control the direction and flight of their ball such that it lands on a neighbouring property. Newer golf courses built within a residential community may not discover that their design adequately minimizes the risks of mishit balls travelling onto adjacent properties until the holes are played and feedback is received from adjacent owners about the frequency of balls landing on neighbouring properties. Where mishit shots cause damages to a neighbouring property an issue arises in regard to whether a golf course ought to be liable for the damages caused or whether the adjacent property owner must assume the risk of living beside a golf course.

In Fletcher v. The Links at Burnello, 2023 NSSM 14, the Court held the defendant golf course liable for damages caused by errant golf balls that escaped from the golf course and struck the neighbouring property owners' house and truck.

The adjacent owners had bought their property in 2007. At the time, the golf course did not exist.

10 years later, the wooded property behind their home was developed and the defendant golf course was opened. The golf course was designed to be a championship-level course and after opening attracted golfers of various skills.

Immediately after opening, the owners found golf balls in their backyard. The owners notified the golf course about the errant shots. Other adjacent property owners also notified the golf course about errant golf balls landing on their properties.

In 2019 and 2020, two errant shots from the fourth hole of the golf course caused damage to the owners' house and truck, respectively. One of the shots struck the back wall of the owners' house and cracked the siding. The other shot flew over the owners' house and left a sizeable dent in their truck.

Eventually, the fourth hole of the golf course was changed to reduce the chances of errant shots travelling onto the owners' property.

The golf course contended that it should not be held liable for the damages caused to the owners' house and truck because it had designed and redesigned the course based on professional standards and that the owners had not proven their case in negligence...

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