Play Fast, Or Come Armed

By: Rob Harris

Ordinarily, I would avoid commenting about a personal misfortune described in a story entitled “Golfer Impaled With Club In Fight,” especially when the story reveals that the man’s femoral artery was ruptured. However, reports are that the man is out of the hospital and recuperating, presenting an opportunity to drive home a point of golf etiquette.

Point of Etiquette: Slower players should let faster players play through.

Ancillary point: Violations do not warrant physical assault.

To be fair, the events that occurred at Fort Worth’s Resort on Eagle Mountain Lake remain murky. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department stated that two groups of golfers converged on the 13th tee. The second group (a threesome) asked the first group (a foursome) if they could play through. Presumably, the answer was “no” (or something to that effect), because a fight broke out, a club was broken, and–according to the spokesman– “the shaft end of the golf club became impaled into the groin area of one of the men.” Ouch.

Before firing up the judicial machinery, however, please note that the cause of the injury remains under investigation. Apparently, the person calling 911 for assistance stated that the man had fallen onto the club. I wonder if the caller was a member of the foursome or the threesome????

Flashback: In 1930, Mr. J.M. Everett found himself a victim under comparable circumstances at the Starmount Forest Country Club during the first year of the club’s existence.  I’ll let the North Carolina Supreme Court tell the story:

“The plaintiff and his companion, playing what is called a twosome, began their game, and, before they had proceeded very far, the defendant Goodwin, with two companions, named Land and Fagan, came upon the course and began playing a threesome behind the plaintiff.

Plaintiff testified as follows: “As we were starting on the fifth hole I drove, and Mr. Elkins then drove, and I got a bad drive on my first ball, which did not go any further than from here to the door back there, and I went out and was preparing to drive again and as I did I looked around and Mr. Goodwin was getting ready to drive his ball off and was swinging, and I hollered, ‘Look out, don’t drive this way,’ and as he drove, the ball went over my head and he hollered and said, ‘Get out of the way.”

Plaintiff further testified that the defendant and his companions were driving balls in and about him and his companion from the fifth hole up to the fourteenth. The occurrence at the fourteenth hole is narrated by the plaintiff as follows: “They were right there on the tee with us when we finished, and as soon as we would put our ball down and drive off before we had gone more than fifty feet they would have their ball down starting to drive it without any warning whatsoever. In fact, they were so close to us that we did not walk down the middle of the fairway for fear they would hit us. They would drive just immediately after we drove our ball.

As we reached the sixteenth tee and Mr. Elkins made his drive, and I made my drive, as I stepped off, a couple of them, I do not know just which it was that had the ball already teed up ready to swat it, I walked over the edge of the fairway in the rough and I had not gone more than fifteen feet when they had driven their ball and Mr. Goodwin put his ball up to drive and he was drawing back to hit it, and I made the remark, “You are liable to hit me.’ I made it loud enough for all to hear. I said, “Better get out of the way, he is liable to hit us,’ and I got off the fairway on the edge of the rough, and when I did he drove the ball and the ball hit me on this knee-cap and as it hit me on the knee it knocked me off both feet on the ground and I immediately got up as quick as I could and I said, ‘I believe it broke my leg.’ Mr. Goodwin walked down there and said he didn’t think it was broken and didn’t think it was hurt much.”

Confronted with these less than favorable facts, the defendant avoided the argument that many would make: any twosome that is taking that long deserves what it gets.  Rather, he contended that he was not hitting into a twosome because the two groups had merged into a fivesome and therefore the rules of engagement were different, as accidents among groups sometimes happen. The jury, however, didn’t buy the argument, ingenious though it was. The Supreme Court on appeal refused to override the jury’s determination on this point, but could not resist one final salvo:

Defendant testified that the parties merged into a five-some from the fifth to the sixteenth hole, and between these said holes the game proceeded “strictly according to honors.” This is explained to mean that “the man who makes the lowest score is the man who has the honor of making the first play at the next hole.” It does not appear who the “honor” man was at the sixteenth hole, but it is clear that the plaintiff had the “honor” of having his knee cap broken by a ball driven by the defendant, and it is obvious that thereafter all “honors” ceased.

[The North Carolina case is captioned Everett v. Goodwin, 201 N.C. 734 (1931)]



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