The danger of golf

The appeal of golf eludes me, though it attracts fanatically faithful players and followers. Its appeal as a spectator sport is particularly baffling since it has all the speed of a chess game. And I say that as a fan of cricket, considered by many to be one of the slowest games on the planet. At least on TV, you get to see various players on different holes. If you are actually on the course, you get to see just a tiny portion of the game. And yet tournaments attract a huge number of spectators to the courses.

Golf is that rare sport where it is more dangerous for the spectators than it is for the players. Since apparently much business is conducted on golf courses, the biggest danger for players is if a fellow player attacks them in the case of a business deal gone wrong. On the few occasions that I have seen a bit of golf on TV, I was amazed that spectators would line up on both sides of a fairly narrow path down which players would drive off the tee. It seemed to me that an errant shot that veered to the left or right would plough right into the crowd and cause serious injury. I myself would not go anywhere near the possible path of a golf ball. The golf ball is so small and hard and traveling at such high speeds, that it would be like standing close to the path of a bullet.

I asked some friends who play golf why this was allowed and they assured me that at the professional level that attracts so many spectators who crowd the tee areas, the players were unlikely to make such a poor shot. Well, it happened. A woman was hit in the eye by a tee shot at the high profile Ryder Cup match in Paris. She has been blinded in the eye and says that she could easily have been killed if the ball’s path had been ever so slightly different.

She is suing, saying that not enough precautions were taken or warnings given to protect spectators.


  1. Holms says

    I really question how anyone can possibly sue in a case of clear and obvious risk that they willingly undertook.

  2. TGAP Dad says

    I was a young boy when I myself witnessed a similar incident. My father and grandpa were awaiting a foursome to finish their tee shots when one of them sent his shot low and hard into another group at the adjacent tee. One of our group shouted “LOOK OUT,” rather than “FORE.” The foursome turned in unison, and the ball struck one dead center of the forehead. A seeming eternity later, an ambulance drove onto the course, and whisked him off to the hospital, still unconscious. I never knew his ultimate outcome, but I’ll never forget the moment he was struck.

  3. John Morales says

    From the link: “”I don’t know how to live with only one eye. I like walking, sport, going to the gym and playing golf,” she said.” (My emphasis)

    So yeah, I reckon she’s trying to milk the accident for what she can get, rather than truly believing there was any neglect. Her list of things about which she claims to be angry seems specious to me.

    (Hey, I would try, too. Worth a go)

  4. fentex says

    …the match was in Paris (France), she is French, and she lives in Egypt.

    Egypt’s health care isn’t all that reputable, the reasoning might hold true if she hopes to get the best treatment -- that she needs the cash for the care.

  5. Art says

    I don’t usually play golf, never really liked the game, but I have played enough rounds to draw a few tentative conclusions: A lot of business gets done on golf courses because it is a sport and context conducive to manipulative exchanges. A lot of men are more comfortable talking things over side-by-side and while doing something together instead of face-to-face. A little light exercise helps keep things loose. The privacy of a small group isolated helps.

    It is also a game where you can play up, or down, your skill to impress, be flattering, or to emphasize accommodation. There is also a wide array of accommodations and cheats available to the individual or on offer.

    One maintains one’s own score and do-overs (mulligans) can be insisted upon, or offered for any reason at all. This lends a slight Calvinball feel to the non-professional golf game. ‘Sir, I believe the bird was chirping distractingly during your tee shot and you should get a do-over. It would only be fair’. Strokes may be counted, or not. Lost balls may be found. or not, in propitious locations. Balls may be spotted where that lay, or at a slightly more convenient location. There is no judge but the players themselves.

    It also allows the persons projected, and/or inner character to show. Depending on how good one is at acting. Through golf you can project your dominance, or a more servile attitude. You can be friendly or mean. Demanding or accommodating. Strict or relaxed.

    All of this is applies to the business relationship. Or it has nothing at all to do with the business relationship. Depending on how one sees it and how much on wishes to admit to.

    It is a metaphor for life, business, and it is a meaningless and trivial game.

  6. jrkrideau says

    Having sat through a couple of baseball games I cannot see how you can say cricket is slow. Well, except for tea time.

  7. drken says

    Most people who watch golf, play golf. Part of the appeal is that golf is a tremendously hard sport and the people playing it on the L/PGA tours play far better than the typical golfer, on courses set up to be much, more difficult. Heck, most golfers will never break 100, while pros would routinely hit in the 50s if they played on the same courses, from the same tees as your typical weekend golfer. It’s only after you’ve tried to hit the green from 200 yards out and watched the ball go literally anywhere but where you were aiming, that you can truly appreciate the men and women who can get it close to the hole almost every time.

    So, why stand where you could get hit by something very hard, going 150+mph? Well, your friends are right. Think of how many pros take tee shots every year and how many of them involve somebody getting hit? Not that many. It’s a calculated risk. As for liability, most sporting events I’ve been to had signs up stating that by being there you accepting the risk of being hit by balls, bats, cars (or parts thereof), etc. But, as my lawyer dad used to tell me, “Anybody can put up a sign that says anything”. So, I’m not sure how much weight the sign carries in a court of law (and your state may vary). However as this is in France, somebody familiar with French liability law would have to chime in on whether or not she has a case.

  8. John Morales says


    Most people who watch golf, play golf. Part of the appeal is that golf is a tremendously hard sport […]

    Not more so than any other sport, IMO. Less so than some.

    It’s just that, as with any sport, at the highest level its practicioners are far, far better than any amateur can expect to be, and so they properly appreciate the expertise displayed.

    (Squash was my sport, and to non-players it doesn’t look like much)

    However as this is in France, somebody familiar with French liability law would have to chime in on whether or not she has a case.

    Mano was misleading in the OP; the quotation in his source was “She is planning legal action against the organisers after being hit by the stray ball on Friday, saying course officials did not give adequate warnings.”

    Presumably, part of that planning will involve getting professional legal advice.

  9. drken says

    @John Morales,
    I’m sure there are stats on what percentage of viewers actually participate in any particular sport, but I would guess golf is towards the top when compared to “major” professional sports with a large viewership. Tennis is probably up there too. Football, I’ll assume is towards the bottom. Yes, compared to sports like Squash, Field Hockey, and Swimming, Golf probably has a lower percentage, but outside of the Olympics, there’s almost nobody watching who doesn’t/didn’t play. I swam in high school and I don’t know anybody who watches swimming who didn’t.

    Also, even compared to other sports, Golf is extremely difficult. Imagine playing Squash for 4 hours and looking back fondly on the 3 or 4 good shots you made the whole time (on a good day), with every other shot you made being mediocre to terrible (mostly terrible). That’s golf (for most amateurs). Squash clubs don’t put up a plaque for every person in that club that ever hit a service winner, because it’s something the vast majority of players will never do. That’s golf. As they say, it takes years of practice just to get terrible.

    “Presumably, part of that planning will involve getting professional legal advice.”
    One would hope.

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