Buffer Zones Through the Lens of Golf: A Negligence Case Content Analysis


  • Natalie Bird Emporia State University
  • Merry Moiseichik University of Arkansas




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


Buffer zones are a risk management strategy used within sport and recreation to protect participants and spectators from injury. Within the recreational golf sector, buffer zone standards do not exist. Recreational golf courses 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 answered research questions related to locations of incidents, circumstances, and injuries or damages that resulted from errant golf shots. A Westlaw search provided 133 cases within the scope of this study, 85 of which could have been possibly prevented with proper buffer zones. In lawsuits in which the golf course was sued, the course prevailed 47.5% of the time and most cases specifically alleged a failure to provide reasonably safe conditions or negligent course design. This article concludes by providing practical recommendations for practitioners to protect golf courses from litigation stemming from errant golf balls.

Author Biographies

Natalie Bird, Emporia State University

Natalie Bird, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Health, Human Performance and Recreation Department at Pittsburgh State University. Her primary area of research is risk management and legal issues as they pertain to the golf industry.

Merry Moiseichik, University of Arkansas

Merry Moiseichik, PhD, is a professor of recreation and sport management in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the University of Arkansas. Her research interests include community development and law as it affects recreation and sport.


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Original Research