When Houses are Bombarded by Errant Golf Balls

Morgan Hill Golf Course
Morgan Hill Golf Course in Easton, Pa., offers striking panoramas, but one homeowner is taking issue with golfers' errant golf balls. (Photo courtesy of Morgan Hill)

Their house has been pummeled by golf balls for more than a decade. The owner, Halina Wisniewski, says she’s been hit in the back and her husband has been struck in the head.

Enough is enough. These eastern Pennsylvania homeowners took their case to court in July, and now they are back, suing for contempt.

This may sound familiar. A high-profile lawsuit against Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., was decided in October, awarding the plaintiffs $7,300. While the judgment went against Quaker Ridge, it was widely considered a victory for the course, since the homeowners were seeking $3.3 million in punitive damages.

So, what is going on here? Why are homes being constructed in such dangerous places?

We’ve probably all struck a house that’s a little too close to a fairway, or at least witnessed somebody else doing it, haven’t we? I vividly remember, about 15 years ago in Katy, Texas, pushing a lousy tee shot smack into the roof of a lovely house that was ridiculously close to the landing zone. The none-too-pleased homeowner was waiting for me as I sheepishly approached.

“Well, you did it. You damaged my house,” she accused me, as I apologized for the wayward ball.

As I looked over her home, I was dismayed. Her yard was littered with golf balls. The metal vents on her roof were pockmarked with dents. One of her back-door windows was cracked and taped together. It was like a mini war zone. I knew I had hit her house, but how could we possibly determine which of the dozens of dings was mine?

“I don’t know why they build these houses so close to the golf course,” she wondered.

“Because people like you buy them,” I thought, but restrained myself from saying.

I gave her my phone number and went on my way. I never heard from her again, but I wonder if she complained to the golf course or ever filed a lawsuit against them.

Back to the Wisniewskis.

“My safety comes to an end the same day that golf season starts,” Halina Wisniewski testified at a Northampton County Court hearing. “There is not a single day I can go out safely, that I can go out to take a rest, because I live in constant fear.”

The plaintiffs had obtained an injunction in July, requiring the neighboring Morgan Hill Golf Course to prevent golfers from hitting balls into their yard. After that, Morgan Hill closed two of the hole’s tees and spent three weeks monitoring the remaining tee. Even though no balls landed in the yard, Morgan Hill still moved all three tees forward so they sit past the Wisniewski home.

The Wisniewskis claim that balls are still hitting their house and now they are back in court, seeking to hold the course in contempt of the July order. READ THE FULL REPORT from The Morning Call.

Quaker Ridge
This $3.7 million home at Quaker Ridge Golf Club was built in a dangerous place.

Meanwhile, the Quaker Ridge case is far from over. The plaintiff’s lawyer says the homeowner plans to appeal.

Does the plaintiff have a case? The golf course opened in 1918. The house was built in 2007, despite warnings that the site would be subject to errant golf balls.

If the New York Supreme Court decides against the golf course and grants the homeowners millions of dollars in damages, the precedent could embolden more homeowners and encourage more lawsuits. That would be very bad news for golf courses everywhere. Even a future home builder could plant a house in a spot where golf balls fly, then sue for damages.

The solution, in my view? People should stop buying homes in obvious landing zones for wayward tee shots. Don’t buy them, then nobody will build them. And nobody will hit them.



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