July 23, 2005

Fore - or maybe side?: Errant golf balls ruled trespass on nearby homes. And exactly why did they buy homes next to the country club?

posted by graymatters to golf at 11:46 AM - 32 comments

I think that the homeowners had a reasonable expectation that the country club would not be such a bad neighbor. When I was a kid, our neighbor built a golf course right up against our existing house and property. If we'd had these kinds of problems, would you be so quick to dismiss them? As it stood, our yard was fairly large and we were well removed from where the tees and green were. We still got the odd ball that make it into the yard, but not very far and we didn't have too much trouble. Our next door neighbor, on the other hand (not the one who built the golf course), ended up putting up an eight foot fence and still had golfers climbing it to steal things from his garden.

posted by ursus_comiter at 12:21 PM on July 23

Since when does any neighbor have the right to constantly send objects of any type through the air onto one's yard or window? Once in a while, like kids playing around with a ball, no problem but on a nearly basis, no, that's not okay. Golf course owners, like any other property owner, have to be responsible for the use of their property and allow neighbors the quiet enjoyment of a home

posted by billsaysthis at 01:29 PM on July 23

Unless the hole is setup in such a way that golfers are hitting scorchers into the yard, this lawsuit is weak. Is their yard in direct path of the green due to a dogleg or something? The hole setup is the key. Besides, 1800 in five years isn't that much. 360 golf balls per year, 8? golfing months out of the year, 45 per month, she averages around 3 balls every 2 days. Weak.

posted by curlyelk at 02:29 PM on July 23

How can she dare think that she wouldn't have golf balls in her yard if she lived next to a Country Club? She knew the risk when she bought the place. Don't blame the Country Club over something you already knew. Quit complaining. That is why they have home owners insurance. "We acknowledged that an occasional ball coming off of a golf course onto a neighboring property is going to happen," he said. "But this is not a situation where it is an occasional ball. We're talking about hundreds of balls to the point where she couldn't sit in her backyard." As curlyelk said, "she averages around 3 balls every 2 days". That is occasional. If it were 5 a day, then you have a complaint. Just goes to show that people will complain about anything. Even when they knew what the hazzards were. Unreal.

posted by dbt302 at 04:32 PM on July 23

The articles says she testified to playing golf with some of the balls. i'd love to see the golf course sue her for playing with customers balls.

posted by rockin_the_suburbs at 07:57 PM on July 23

^ That sounded a little dirty. Sorry Folks

posted by rockin_the_suburbs at 08:02 PM on July 23

All the courses I've ever played have had fences or screens protecting the homes near the course. And for good reason - I used to have a wicked slice.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 08:41 PM on July 23

How can she dare think that she wouldn't have golf balls in her yard if she lived next to a Country Club? She knew the risk when she bought the place. Don't blame the Country Club over something you already knew. Obviously she didn't "dare think that she wouldn't have golf balls in her yard"; she just didn't think it would be that many, nor that damaging and dangerous, nor that she'd have to put up with golfers trespassing onto her property in search of their lost golf balls. In any case, you're in a hurry to dismiss her right to seek remediation when some important facts aren't known -- like, which came first, her house or the neighborhood or the golf course; or what the golf course has done for her with regard to the damage (paying for windows?); or whether there's some kind of local covenant that house buyers sign, some kind of "right for recreational facility to send its component parts flying onto your property and its customers trespassing in search of them". Towns create such covenants in an effort to establish before the fact where one neighbor's elbows end and another's nose begins -- the "recreational facility" one I proposed is pretty silly, but there are more sensible examples. Unless she signed such a covenant before purchasing her house, she's got all the rights in the world to take it to court if it's proving to be a persistent nuisance.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:15 AM on July 24

I play at a golf course with a similar situation. The golf course was there long before any homes were built around it. Yet we still have homeowners who complain about balls coming into their yard. Didn't they see a golf course there before they built their homes?

posted by willowhouse at 08:24 AM on July 24

Why do people buy homes adjacent to golf courses? For a big return on their investment of course! I don't hear her complaining about the mega appreciation of her property due to the golf course.

posted by panteeze at 09:38 AM on July 24

One errant golf ball a day over five years is a lot, especially if some of the golfers are trespassing to the point of jumping her fence. I don't think she had the right to expect no errant balls, but at a certain point, the volume of them should compel a course to plant trees,move tees, or attempt some other form of solution. So I don't have a problem with her pursuing this in the courts. The judge or jury will undoubtedly greet the case with as much skepticism as many of the people here.

posted by rcade at 11:01 AM on July 24

Excuse me Is'nt this alot like building a house next to an airport, or railroad tracks, and then complaining about the noise volume. If I read this correctly, the golf course was there FIRST. She expected some, but not to this degree. So now the golf course is at fault for being a prosporous business? If it was a bad golf course, and was sold for lack of revenue, and more homes built on it, would she complain about losing the atmosphere of living on a golf course? All the people I know that live on courses, sneak out for freebie holes anyway. If your not into golf why would you want to live next to one?

posted by volfire at 11:25 AM on July 24

This is why you should never build homes on the right side of the fairway.

posted by seansterps at 02:49 PM on July 24

Excuse me Is'nt this alot like building a house next to an airport, or railroad tracks, and then complaining about the noise volume. If I read this correctly, the golf course was there FIRST. You do not read it correctly. The article states that the golf course was there before she moved there; it does not state that the golf course predates the house. Nor do we know that the golf course has never been altered since the house was there. There have been an awful lot of golf courses built in the US in recent years, folks, and plenty more have been "improved" -- a few less assumptions, or a little more research, might be in ordere here.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:56 PM on July 24

I'm still waiting for somebody who thinks the homeowner should not be making this complaint to explain how one property owner (the golf course) is entitled to continually send things off their property onto the neighbor's. If the course needs more space for play then they should buy enough and not annoy others.

posted by billsaysthis at 09:48 PM on July 24

I'm sorry, so then it's alot like BUYING a house next to and airport or railroad and expecting the noise to not be so bad. Whether the course has been altered or not still does not take out the fact, that she bought a house adjacent a golf course. Especially given the popularity of golf in the last 5 or 6 years, how can someone not expect to get golf balls in their yard? Should'nt she have done a little less assuming, and more research before investing in a home?(and most likely not a cheap one either)

posted by volfire at 09:49 PM on July 24

volfire, people who know a lot more about this case than me and thee have decided it has sufficient merit to proceed. Don't you think it possible that you, not being in full possession of the facts, might be making an over-hasty judgment? Or a whole lot of them? There is also the point that billsaysthis raised. My neighbors owned their house before I moved in, and had three kids. If baseballs start flying through my windows on a regular basis, should I just shrug, sweep up the glass, and say, "Oh well, that's what I get for buying a house next to a family with kids"?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:33 PM on July 24

And why hasn't anyone put up some netting to protect the yard? Because it'll ruin the view?

posted by YukonGold at 08:20 AM on July 25

I was sitting in my buddies back yard one evening, his property ends where a huge public park begins, with a few friends, when a loud thwack was heard and my friend slumped over - having been hit in the head with a golf ball. We now call him dent. However, it does suck not to be able to use your backyard. A couple of trees would make a dramatic improvement for this lady.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:10 AM on July 25

Excuse me Is'nt this alot like building a house next to an airport, or railroad tracks, and then complaining about the noise volume. What Volfire is talking about is nuisance and the Plaintiff's nuisance claim. What the Plaintiff prevailed on was a trespass theory, as in a physical invasion of the property. At least that is how I read this passage from the case: In common parlance, a plaintiff in such circumstances is sometimes described as "coming to a nuisance." While the factor is not dispositive in deciding whether an activity constitutes a nuisance, it weighs heavily in determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to relief. However, we need not determine whether the various factors applicable to the plaintiffs' nuisance claim weigh in favor of their request for relief because such factors do not affect the right to relief on a claim of trespass. There is, in other words, no cognate notion of "coming to a trespass," and the continuing and frequent invasion of golf balls from the defendants' course onto the plaintiffs' properties, resulting from the ordinary conduct by the defendants' members of the golfing activity for which the defendants intend the course to be used, constitutes a continuing trespass. (legal citations all omitted for Spofite consumption…otherwise its gets long).

posted by chris2sy at 11:40 AM on July 25

This excerpt from the case also helps a little to see where the Court was coming from: "The record includes the trial testimony of an expert in golf course design, who suggested that the problem of golf balls traveling onto the plaintiffs' properties could be eliminated if the ninth hole were shortened, changing the hole from a par four to a par three. While we decline to direct a particular means by which the defendants must achieve the goal, we observe that the burden of modifying the hole does not in our view rise to the level of hardship indicated by the Restatement as sufficient (accompanied by other extenuating circumstances) to relieve a defendant of the obligation to eliminate a continuing trespass." (a restatement of law, as used in the excerpt, is basically just a compilation and codification of caselaw/common law, etc.)

posted by chris2sy at 11:59 AM on July 25

The Boston Globe went a little more in depth. It's a 9 hole public course that hosts 40,000 rounds a year. So if you're playing 18 holes, you get 2 chances to hit this woman's house which sits at the midway point of a 290 yard par 4. For you non-golfers, 290 yards = amateur golfers going for the green. I think she has a case.

posted by usfbull at 09:20 PM on July 25

It's a 9 hole public course that hosts 40,000 rounds a year. So if you're playing 18 holes, you get 2 chances to hit this woman's house which sits at the midway point of a 290 yard par 4. So does this mean she gets 40,000 golf balls hit in her general direction every year, or 80,000?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:30 PM on July 25

I wasn't sure how they were defining a round either. I define it as 18 holes.

posted by usfbull at 08:10 AM on July 26

Okay, so we've determined this woman bought a house which was developed directly onto a golf course. I assume she looked in the backyard and saw what was there, so I firmly declare her a moran for complaining about being showered with golf balls. If she had concerns, she should have raised them with the developer at the time of construction or asked for a study. I also view the use of the trespassing law here as pretty ridiculous. Will this law now apply if a pine cone drops from your tree onto your neighbor's lawn? And what about those evil golfers who dispatched the trespassing balls? Those criminal masterminds should be locked up! The crazy thing is, they tried to settle this but couldn't come to an agreement. I'm not sure what golf engineer thinks a 60-foot net won't work, because that's pretty much exactly what every driving range built next to a highway uses. Sure, a ball gets out here and there, but short of encasing the property in a giant Tupperware dome (don't forget to burp occasionally or the roof will go stale), you bought a house built next to a golf course. Now, as for people coming on to her property to retrieve their errant shots? Lock and load. I play plenty of courses where balls get lost in the neighboring yards, and my rule is -- if you can't reach it with a four-iron, you lost it. My suggestion to this woman? Do what every other person who lives on a golf course does. Save the golf balls, sell them through your local paper and use the funds to repair any damages caused by them. Or move. Whichever is easier. BTW, I define a "round" as either nine or 18, depending on what your intentions are when you leave the clubhouse. If you plan for 18 and you're too pissed off or drunk to play the back nine, it's still a round.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:19 AM on July 26

I firmly declare her a moran Yer crackin' me up, wfj.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:00 AM on July 26

Nothing like a little 6 foot fence to keep out the golfers and rapists: "Before she purchased her home, Amaral asked the realtor who showed her the house whether golf balls often came onto the property and was assured it was not a problem. After moving in to her home, however, Amaral discovered that golf balls frequently came onto her property, often followed by golfers hoping to retrieve them. To remedy the latter intrusion, Amaral replaced a degraded barbed wire fence with a six foot high chain link fence. That helped deter the entries by golfers, but not their errant shots. During a weekend of good weather in golfing season, up to a dozen balls typically come onto Amaral's property. At trial, Amaral brought with her six plastic buckets, each containing approximately 300 golf balls she retrieved from her yard during the five years she had occupied her home. Amaral testified that, in addition to those 1,800 balls, she had given many others away, and had used others to play herself." She forgot the razor wire on top of the fence though...and plexiglass windows. Sounds like were not talking about golfers going on the property, just the errant shots...or what I call my regular shot.

posted by chris2sy at 11:36 AM on July 26

Before she purchased her home, Amaral asked the realtor who showed her the house whether golf balls often came onto the property and was assured it was not a problem. Ha! She believed the realtor.

posted by curlyelk at 11:51 AM on July 26

I'm not sure what golf engineer thinks a 60-foot net won't work Good call fraze. Obviously I'm not surprised to read that the fence wasn't installed "for aesthetic reasons" though.

posted by YukonGold at 11:52 AM on July 26

Chris, I missed that. Now I know where her lawsuit should be directed -- at the realtor that lied to her -- although she needs a swift kick for believing said agent. lbb, I love nothing more than that photo that pops up on Fark of the guy holding the "Get a brain, morans" sign. Except he's wearing a Cardinals t-shirt, and I'm a Cards fan ... that just hurts.

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:53 AM on July 26

Why isn't she selling them back to these crap golfers in the tradition of elderly course walkers the world 'round? Maybe she could partner with the course to make her lawn a 2 stroke penalty.

posted by yerfatma at 02:27 PM on July 26

2 stroke penalty Actually that would be one way to get people aiming away, make it O.B. Of course, that won't stop a power fade, slice, push, block out, or even a popup to RF the way a fence or net would.

posted by YukonGold at 07:24 PM on July 26

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