Ball Hit From Golf Course Hits Your Car: Who's Responsible?

4:45 PM, Jul 16, 2013   |    comments
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St. Louis, MO -- If you've ever driven past a golf course, it's probably crossed your mind; "I hope a stray ball doesn't hit my car."

It happened to a Kirkwood Missouri man and it poses an interesting question. Who's responsible? Is it the golfer, the player or the driver who chose to drive there?

The solid sound of a driver connecting with a golf ball or the satisfying sound of a ball rolling into a hole, those are the sounds you want to hear on the golf course.

This is the sound, "a good thump," recalled Tom Jones that he and his wife hated to hear as they drove past one.

"Here's obviously where the ball hit," Jones said pointing to a dent on the hood of his Ford Escape. "Then it bounced up from here, hit the windshield and then went back up off the roof. It hit on the passenger side, so it kind of startled my wife. This is our first new car in 12 years."

The couple was coming home from dinner passing the Westborough Country Club when it happened. They pulled over and found a golf ball in the street gutter.

Tom was surprised by the reaction he got when he called Westborough.

"They take the stance, or it is there policy, that they are not responsible for it. They're not responsible for their members on their golf course," said Jones.

Over the phone, 5 on Your Side asked the course's general manager for a camera interview to talk about its policy. When he refused, we asked to speak to the club's lawyer.

That didn't happen, and only after our repeated phone calls back to the general manager weren't returned did we decide to visit Westborough.

Here's how some of the conversation went down between 5 on Your Side's Mike Rush and Westborough Country Club's Golf Course General Manager Tom Elliot.

Elliot: "We're not responsible for his car. We tried to help. We went out and we talked to all the golfers who were on the course. Tried to find out who did it. If in fact, it even came from us."

Rush: "Where else would it come from?"

Elliot: "Anywhere. Maybe he was out playing golf in his own yard. I don't know."

Rush: "Well, no he was driving South Berry."

Elliot: "That's what he says."

Rush: "Do you doubt that that happened?"

Elliot: "I have no way to prove that it did."

Tom Fagan is a lawyer, but not representing anyone in this case. He says precedent shows things aren't always as black and white as Elliot indicates, and not a slam dunk for drivers in Jones' position either.

"Frankly, the cases indicate that liability is decided on a case-by-case basis," said Fagan.

Back to the conversation between Rush and Elliot:

Rush: "Do you feel any responsibility if somebody's driving down a public road and a ball comes off of a private club to help them out?"

Elliot: "No."

Rush: "Why?"

Elliot: "Why would I?"

Rush: "Because it came from your club."

Elliot: "So, I didn't hit the ball."

"Every time we get to drive it, it's a reminder to us and so I'd kind of like to see it gone," said Jones.

An estimate shows the dent will cost nearly $500 to fix. Something it looks Jones will have to pay.

"There's no signs that say caution, travel at your own risk, flying golf balls," said Jones. "I don't understand why they don't provide protection for the public. This is a public thorough fare that we go on."

5 on Your Side contacted several other Missouri golf courses. All agree the golfer is responsible. If they can't find the golfer, some, like Westborough, will not pay for repairs. Others say they will and one other said it's a case-by-case basis. The golf pro at one club pointed out that many clubs have insurance to cover these kinds of accidents.

2 Wants to Know called five Triad courses. All of them held the same position. The course itself is not responsible. Two actually said they'd never had that happen or had that question, while another said it happened just last week! Either way, prepare to pay up if it happens to you.

KDSK/ WFMY News 2

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