Personal Injury – Bar for the Course, Golfing Risks


Your friends talk you into taking golf lessons.  They even manage to convince you to go out for a real round of golf.  You find yourself in a group of four, with one friend and two others that you do not know.  Everyone besides you claims to be an experienced golfer.

The round begins and everything is going fairly well (besides your constant miss-hits on the ball).  One of these miss-hits results in your ball barely making it off the tee-box.  You quickly move up to your ball and take one practice swing.  After your practice swing you see that one of the men in your four-some that you do not know is slightly ahead of you.  You do think to yourself that this may not be the safest place for him to stand but you don’t say anything.  The other man does have his eyes on you but he does not say anything either.  You take your triumphant swing and look down the fairway to see where the ball ended up.  To your surprise you do not see anything but rather you hear something.  You hear the yelp of a man who has just been struck in the face with a golf ball.

He is now suing you claiming that you were negligent.

The standard of care expected of a sportsman is what would a reasonable player in his place do or not do.  This test was cited in the British Columbia case Herok v. Wegrzanowski (1985 CarswellBC 2487).

Another BC Court decision stated as follows:

“Although there are some risks incidental in the game of golf, players must take care not to hit anyone because of the obvious danger of injury.”

[Finnie v. Ropponen, [1987] B.C.J. No. 448]

There are many considerations that must go into this “reasonable player” analysis, all of which cannot be discussed in this blog.  However, one pertinent consideration given the above facts is the experience of the players.  As an experienced player, one is expected to know how to play the game safely.  This does not mean that an inexperienced player is free from liability.  The inexperienced player knowing that his or her shots are likely to be sporadic must take caution when swinging a club.

In order to reduce your exposure to liability, you should not swing your club until the rest of your group is alongside or behind an imaginary line that extends straight at 180 degrees from where you have lined up to take your shot.

Given the facts above, it is likely that the inexperienced golfer will be held liable in negligence and responsible for the injured person’s personal injury damages.  The man who was hit will likely be found to have been contributorily negligent as well.  This is because, as an experienced golfer, he should have known not to have been standing ahead of an inexperienced golfer who was about to swing.

If you suffer injuries on the golf course due to the actions of another be sure to contact us for legal advice.