Question: In a recent column, you stated that a golfer has a duty to yell “fore” or otherwise warn people of the potential of being struck by a golf ball. I can understand the golfer having liability if he hits a person without yelling “fore,” but how can a golfer have liability for breaking a window in a home that is adjacent to the fairway? What good would it do to yell “fore”?
Answer: The law is not a model of clarity in relation to the duty owed to a person or a person’s property struck by a golf ball. The general rule, however, is that a golfer is required to yell “fore” or otherwise warn a person in that particular golfer’s “zone of danger.”
Every golfer has a different “zone of danger” — the location where the golfer generally hits the golf ball. Phil Mickelson would have a dramatically different zone of danger than a once-a-week duffer. An Arizona appellate court has ruled that a woman on the driving range at the Arizona Country Club was in another golfer’s “zone of danger” and was entitled to a warning even though this woman was not on the actual golf course. The failure to warn resulted in the golfer being liable for the lady’s injuries.
If a warning would be futile, however, then there is no duty to warn. A warning to a window in a home would be futile. Therefore, even if the window is in the golfer’s zone of danger, there is no duty to warn and there should be no liability if the window is damaged by a golf ball. On the other hand, if a person sitting in a backyard is in the golfer’s zone of danger, there would be a duty to warn, and liability for any injuries to that person for the failure to warn.
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