GOLF clubs and local authorities across Scotland are being forced to review course safety after one club was ordered to increase its compensation payout to a golfer who lost an eye after being struck by a ball.
Golf clubs and local authorities across Scotland are being forced to review course safety after one club was ordered to increase its compensation payout to a golfer who lost an eye after being struck by a ball.
The Scottish Golf Union (SGU) issued a warning about on-course safety after the controversial case, which was destined for the Supreme Court, between Niddry Castle Golf Club in West Lothian and two golfers was settled.
Anthony Phee, who was a visitor to the course, lost an eye after being hit by a ball struck by fellow amateur player James Gordon in 2007.
Mr Phee was awarded £397,034.82, with Mr Gordon liable for 70% and the club 30% due to its “failure to place signs at appropriate places”.
Niddry Castle appealed the decision, arguing that 30% liability was unfair. But the appeal court in Edinburgh disagreed and substantially altered the award, finding the golf club 80% liable with just 20% liability attributed to Mr Gordon.
In its emailed communiqué the SGU warned:
“The recent decision of the Inner House of the Court Session on Phee v Gordon and Niddry Castle Golf Club makes it imperative that clubs give greater attention to general health and safety procedures, in particular the area of course hazards, and the insurance you have in place at your club.”
The court found the club’s failure to warn was a significant failure and was of a greater magnitude than that of Mr Gordon.
The SGU said it was not apparent that the club’s accident book has been readily available for the reporting of incidents of accidents caused by golfers.
Glasgow Life and South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture who operate municpal courses both confirmed they are reviewing safety measures.
Glasgow Life said it was examining its guidance to players in the light of the judgment although it said its six municipal public courses were designed to minimise risk.
A spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire Council said a review is being undertaken “of our on-course risk assessments incorporating directional and safety signage”.
Edinburgh Leisure said that after the court case it introduced compulsory golfers’ insurance which covers individuals who play on their municipal courses.
David Moir, secretary of Cathkin Braes Golf Club, said it had carried out a risk assessment and new warning notices were now in preparation, although he did point out that “the wee white ball is easily hit poorly and travels in a direction which it is not intended on many occasions”.
He said the signs “will help ‘advise’ members and guests of dangers from, for example, adjoining fairways”.He added: “There are already some signs on the course but these need to be improved.“
The more warning signs the better the chance of all members and guests and walkers on the course will be aware of the need for vigilance.”
The SGU pointed out that Niddry Castle had encouraged visitors to play on the golf course, whether or not they were experienced golfers.
“It was not entitled to assume that the people walking on the course were aware of the rules of golf or how to respond to a warning shout,” it said.
“It ought to have been aware that some golfers would be beginners or relatively inexperienced and it was not entitled to assume that all golfers would play in a safe manner all of the time.“
The SGU added: “Golf clubs and responsible officials need to understand that the general duty of care to members, visitors and employees has not altered, however this judgment places an onerous responsibility on clubs to ensure that the appropriate risk assessments are completed and that members and visitors are fully aware of the rules of golf.”
Kate Bennett of HBM Sayers Solicitors, representing Mr Gordon, expressed her client’s relief following the appeal court’s decision but said her client remained disappointed that there was no finding of negligence on the part of Mr Phee for his failure to respond to warning shouts.
She welcomed the Scottish Golf Union’s decision to recommend golf clubs give greater attention to general health and safety procedures and insurance arrangements, adding that individual golfers are also encouraged to carry specialist golfers’ insurance.