Long-time golfers will recognize the signs.

“Stay off the grass.”

“No golf carts.”

“Out of Bounds. Private property.”

“Our dog eats all golf balls and trespassing golfers.”

OK, I invented that last one, but you get the picture.

As the Five Man Electrical Band famously sang in 1971:

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

How many times have you chased a wayward drive only to see your ball in a backyard off the par-five and a sign warning all comers to stay away? This occurrence is almost always followed by a question: “So you live on a golf course and you’re surprised people might hit balls onto your property?”

This topic gained renewed exposure recently when a court awarded a Massachusetts couple $4.93 million, ruling that Indian Pond Country Club had not protected the couple’s house from golf balls hit by players on the course’s 15th hole. A lawyer said more than 600 golf balls had landed on the property, breaking windows and making life quite uncomfortable.

What we have here are either some very bad golfers or a wacky golf hole, and it appears that the latter is the case. The house sits in the bend of the 15th fairway, and more than a few golfers apparently saw the advantage of shortening the hole’s dogleg by trying to hit across the couple’s yard. Sometimes it worked; often it didn’t.

I sometimes wonder about people who build or buy homes on golf courses. Do most of them play golf and are attracted to being members of the club and living on the course, or do many want a nice home in a park-like setting and care nothing about the golf?

These are not pressing questions on a matter of international importance, but the experience of the Massachusetts couple underlines the issues that can appear when golf balls go astray. This is an extreme result, of course, but it also feels rather extreme when your drive crashes through a window and the homeowner is there waiting for your arrival with a snarl and a repair estimate in hand.

I have played numerous rounds over the years in the golfing playground of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Some of Myrtle Beach’s courses weave dangerously through housing and condominium developments, and some of the fairways are so narrow that encounters between golf balls and windows and/or roofs are almost inevitable. 

A friend of mine could hit the ball a mile but often battled a dramatic slice. It was an adventure playing beach courses with him. He would start his drive far to the left, sailing over the tops of houses, assuming that his natural slice eventually would drop the ball in the fairway. That approach usually worked, but sometimes we would hear the distinctive clank of a ball meeting building material, leading us to advance to the next tee box with utmost speed.

Now, assuming that this latest court decision might set a precedent, my next residential move might be to a golf course where I can wedge my newly built home as close to the heart of a dogleg as possible.

Then, I wait.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.