Originally Posted by sacm3bill
Zeg, you and I usually see eye to eye but not on this issue. Am I partially responsible for the chain of events that led to the damage caused when someone rear-ends my car, simply because I bought the car and drove it out into the street? If not, how is that different?
It's a fair question.
The difference is that an attentive driver is expected to maintain complete control over his vehicle at all times, whereas balls hit OB are a common part of the game, even at the highest skill levels. If someone rear-ends you, it's almost certain that they were driving negligently by either not paying attention, following too closely, driving too fast, or making some other error in judgement [*]. When making a golf swing, no one has the control to guarantee that every ball will actually go where it was aimed, so you can't reasonably ascribe a wayward shot to negligence. A golfer can take every reasonable precaution (aside from not playing) and still cause damage or injury.
Now, you can't ignore the fact that golf courses are designed, built, advertised, and sold to their customers as facilities for playing golf. Anyone building or buying a house located adjacent is aware of the fact that golf will be played near their property, and is almost certainly well aware that golf balls will find their way onto their property. As such, if they are unwilling to accept the risk of a ball striking them or their property, they can either not buy that property, or take steps to ensure that the worst reasonable shot a golfer could make won't hit them. That could be a large net or fence, or aligning the holes so that the direction of play won't head anywhere near the boundary of the course. These are steps that the homeowner or the golf course need to take, and if they aren't taken, one or the other is implicitly taking responsibility for the very foreseeable outcome that some golfer is going to hit a wayward shot that hurts someone or breaks something.
I think you and I probably do see eye-to-eye that people need to take responsibility for their actions. I think you're ignoring the responsibility the injured party (and/or homeowner, golf course, etc) has to protect against foreseeable "random" events. Here, I'm assuming that the golfer really did everything necessary to play the game as safely as possible, so if he hit someone who was in the fairway or did something else stupid, I would absolutely agree he's responsible. Barring that, I think a golfer who is playing on a golf course and is playing the game in a safe manner (to the extent that this is possible) has generally fulfilled his duty to avoid liability. If someone or something is injured by the ball, it's unfortunate, but random, and I don't think you can fairly pin the blame on the guy who hit the ball. Anyone one the course assumes that risk knowingly, and anyone living (or located [**]) adjacent to the course does as well.
[*] Regarding rear-ending, if the rear-ending is caused by a mechanical failure, things might be more complicated. Most of the time, though, even this would be the fault of the driver because he's responsible for maintaining the car in a safe condition.
[**] In the case that someone driving or walking near the course is struck by a ball, I still don't think the golfer is responsible. If the course is set up so that fairly played balls are leaving the course, that is irresponsible design on the part of the course. They at least need to take pretty strong measures to inform the golfer of the specific risk, but I don't think that's really an adequate solution. I think we'd be better off holding the golf course responsible so that they fix the problem and prevent the injuries.