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Golf ball and driver club headA judge in the Court of Session has awarded damages of almost £400,000 in favour of a golfer who lost his eye after being hit by a ‘wayward’ shot.

Both the golfer who struck the ball and the golf club were held liable, to the extent of 70% and 30% respectively.

The case was brought by a novice golfer, Mr Phee, who was visiting Niddry Castle Golf Club in August 2007. Mr Phee and his companions were walking on a path leading from the 6th green to the 7th tee, when the cry of “Fore!” was raised.

Despite ducking and raising a hand in protection, he was hit in the left eye by a shot struck from the 18th tee by a Mr Gordon. He felt his eye “explode”.

The intervention of medical assistance could not save it and he lost his eye. Mr Phee then sued both Mr Gordon and the club.

Golfer and Gold Club had a Duty of Care

Mr Gordon had seen Mr Phee and his companions on the path, however he did not think they were at risk, and he proceeded to take his shot. The path ran along side the fairway he was aiming for, about 150 yards distant, but about 65 yards left of his intended target line.

There was no record of any accidents or near misses previously at this point. Mr Gordon played the course regularly, had a handicap of 18, and claimed never to have hit a “duck hook”.

The Judge held that both Mr Gordon and the golf club owed Mr Phee a duty of care. Mr Gordon had failed to consider the risk his tee shot posed to Mr Phee, whilst the golf club had failed to install proper safety signs warning of the risk of stray shots at that point on the course.

The Judge rejected an argument that Mr Phee had contributed to his own injury.

Warning signs should have been erected

The judge found that the golf club ought to have appreciated and warned of the risk of wayward shots from the 18th tee endangering those on the path between the 6thgreen and 7th tee. Despite that fact that there had been no history of accidents or near misses at this point, the club ought to have carried out a risk assessment, and warning signs should have been erected at both locations.

Fraser Geddes, a partner at Anderson Strathern solicitors, commented:  “Golf clubs will no doubt be left wondering whether and when they might need appropriate signs or notices drawing risks to the attention of their patrons. This case would seem to suggest that when it comes to intimating potential danger, clubs can never be too careful. Risk assessments should be carried out, and where risks are identified, warnings must be given.”


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