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Golf News: - Posted 2nd April 1998

R & A issues rules warning on the etiquette of golf

St Andrews, Scotland - Royal and Ancient rules official David Rickman has warned players to be careful and abide by laws of etiquette after a man was found liable to pay damages for an errant shot that struck another player in the eye.

The incident occurred in 1992 at the Dunwood Manor Golf Club in Romsey, Hants.

Anthony Lightning was trying to hit a ball over a coppice towards the green, but it ricocheted off a tree and hit John Pearson, who was standing on the next fairway 80 to 90 yards away. Pearson has not played the sport since.

Three appeals judges today upheld a county court judge's verdict that Lightning was liable to pay damages, even though both golfers were aware of each other's position and a warning "fore" had been shouted when the ball was mishit.

However, Rickman, rules secretary of the sport's governing body, does not now fear a rash of lawsuits that could jeopardise the future of the sport.

"It sets a precedent, but cases still depend on certain facts," Rickman said. "If the other player had been out of sight or further away, would that have changed the judges' decision?

"Our understanding is that each case is going to be dealt with on its own merits.

"The relevant section of the rulebook is the etiquette section. Prior to making a stroke and taking a practice swing, the player should be making sure that no-one is standing close by or is in a position to be hit.

"You're not penalised if you hit someone with a ball or your golf club, but clearly golfers, as with any individual, have to operate with a system of due care and attention."

The popularity of golf has brought an increasing number of novices onto courses, players lacking skill and unfamiliar with rules of etiquette.

"There are a lot of people out there on a golf course," Rickman admitted. "St Andrews is the classic example where there are lots of double fairways.

"It's probably unusual to play a round at St Andrews and not shout 'fore' yourself, or perhaps not take evasive action because a ball is coming your way.

"Golf courses are places where you've got golf balls whizzing around, not always in the direction the person who hit the ball intended.

"The rules of the game simply make reference to common sense, safety provision. Fortunately this type of case, where someone is seriously injured, is relatively rare.

"People just need to be aware and behave as responsibly as they can. Obviously you cannot be reckless in what you're doing on the golf course."

The Professional Golfers' Association urged players to purchase their own insurance policy to cover such incidents.

PGA secretary David Wright said: "There are insurance policies that include all eventualities on a golf course. Each golfer should take out their own insurance policy which would cover the liability."

PA