Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport and Exercise Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Merry Moiseichik

Committee Member

Geoboo Song

Second Committee Member

Angela Smith-Nix

Third Committee Member

Josh Lens


buffer zone, errant shot, golf, negligence, risk management


Buffer zones are a risk management method used within sport and recreation to protect participants and spectators from avoidable injury. Within the recreational golf sector, buffer zone standards do not exist. This poses a problem as golf courses in the recreational sector serve a wide range of customers in terms of age, skill level, and experience. A legal case content analysis of 1,561 golf negligence lawsuits aimed to answer research questions related to locations of incidents, circumstances that led to injury, and injuries or damages that were the result of errant golf shots. A Westlaw search provided the data for this study, and after removing irrelevant cases 133 were within the scope of this study, 85 of which included incidents that could have been prevented had proper buffer zones been in place. Three large lawsuit categories emerged: On Course, Off Course, and Course Premises. Emergent subcategories included shots from same hole – same group; same hole – different group; different hole – different group; residence property damage; vehicle property damage; course maintenance issues; and injury at residence. Most golf ball injuries preventable by buffer zones occurred on the golf course between players in different groups on different holes, and the majority of injuries were to the head. In lawsuits where the golf course was being sued by an injured party, the course won 47.5% of the time and most cases specifically cited the duty to provide reasonably safe conditions or negligent course design as the factor that determined the decision of the case. This dissertation concludes by providing practical recommendations for practitioners to best protect golf courses and managers from litigation stemming from errant golf balls.

Keywords: golf, buffer zone, errant shot, negligence, risk management