Ryder Cup - Spectator Injury - The next stage


Consultant Solicitor

Tue 9 October 2018 Ryder Cup - Spectator Injury - The next stage

Greg Rollingson, an experienced personal injury lawyer and specialist in golf injury claims at Taylor Rose TTKW reviews the recent serious injuries to spectators at the Ryder Cup and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and their wider legal implications.  [Greg is also a regular club golfer himself].

Following two recent incidents when spectators were seriously injured at major golf tournaments by errant golf shots, golf tournament organisers may need to review their safety and spectator procedures.

On 29 September at the Ryder Cup in Paris, US golfer Brooks Koepka struck a golf ball that hit a spectator (Corine Remande).  As a result Remande appears (sadly) to have lost the sight in her right eye.  At the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, at a course near St. Andrews on 4 October, another spectator was hit on the head by a ball struck by Europe Ryder Cup star, Tyrell Hatton.

Remande has indicated that she intends to sue the tournament organisers (European Tour).  One of her allegations is that course officials failed to give the crowd adequate warnings of the approaching golf ball. It is not yet clear, whether the spectator injured in Scotland is intending to take legal action.

In the UK, tournament organisers owe spectators a “duty of care” under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957.  This duty is ‘a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case, is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises, for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.’  Breach of this duty of care is likely to bring about a finding of negligence in law.

In the light of the two recent incidents involving injury to spaectators,The R&A (the governing body for golf in the UK) has indicated that it is reviewing its spectator procedures and will set its spectator advice before every event, following the two incidents.

Tournament organisers and golf clubs generally, will now need to consider introducing some of the following measures which may  improve crowd safety.

  1. Landing Zones - Organisers could mark out areas that are ‘landing zones’.  Zones could be marked  with posts or paint, so fans know where the ball is coming from and that they are in a potential landing zone.  Fans can then choose whether they stand there or not.  If they choose to do so, then the fans would assume more of the legal risk themselves.
  2. Introduce ‘No Go Zones” around landing areas, which spectators are prohibited from entering . This is likely to considerably improve safety, but is also likely to have a negative affect on spectator viewing and course atmosphere.
  3. Course officials to alert crowds of impending danger from balls in flight and invite the crowd to take evasive action.  Some tournaments already have officials with flags, or officials are required to point to the crowd to indicate where a ball is likely to land.
  4. Safe seating for families and those less mobile.
  5. Introduce a one shot penalty for player if he does not shout ‘fore’ and point to where he has hit his shot.  It has been suggested in some golf circles that some tour golfers are loathe to shout fore or point to where a stray shot is headed, believing that if the ball strikes the crowd, they may get a more favourable lie for their next shot.  It is uncertain if this is true (certainly no golfer would be likely to admit it), but if a player was given a one shot penalty if he did not give the crowd sufficient warning of a stray shot, it is very likely that the player would call ‘fore’ and signal where the stray shot is heading, by pointing their club left or right.
  6. Mobile phones – many spectators use their mobile phones to take selfies or action shots of golf tournaments.  This often means that spectators are not concentrating fully on golf balls that may be travelling towards them dangerously at speed.  One suggestion is that mobile phones are not permitted on golf courses, or at least only in certain safe areas.  Noisy mobile phones are a source of irritation to all golfers at all levels in any event.

It will be interesting to see what steps are now taken by tournament organisers and golf clubs, to address these issues.

The danger from injury from a golf ball is any event a serious matter that all golf clubs need to have under regular review, if they are to avoid legal liability at club level, regardless of what big tournament organisers do.

These recent incidents highlight for all golfers, golf clubs and visitors  to golf courses the risk of injury from golf balls which are potentially lethal projectiles. If you are a golf club concerned about preventative safety issues, someone who has been injured by a golf ball, or you have injured someone else with a golf ball, Taylor Rose TTKW can help you. Please contact Greg Rollingson or David Webb on 020 3959 0550 or by email to greg.rollingson@taylor-rose.co.uk or David Webb at  david.webb@taylor-rose.co.uk.



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