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Pain in the glass

Golf-course homeowners have several tools at their disposal to protect their property from errant golf balls

For people living along golf courses, glass damage from errant golf balls is no laughing matter. While the problem isn’t large in terms of total homes affected, it’s a big deal for the few that do live in the line of fire.

“Only a small percentage of courses have homes bordering them,” said Slade King, COO of Play Golf Calgary, which runs five courses in and around the city.

“Within all of the Calgary courses, only a few holes have issues, so out of 30,000 golfers who play that course in a year, you may have 10 incidents of golf-ball damage to houses.”

That said, King notes there’s a real “quality of life” issue for those whose homes are affected. As a result, golf courses do what they can to minimize the risk.

“There are many design elements you can add to reduce the number of errant shots,” said King.

“You can alter the angle of tee boxes and try to keep housing on the left side of the hole, as most golfers will slice to the right.”

Other options include adding hazards along housing, such as water or bunkers, to deter golfers from aiming that way, and using netting at the tee box or along property lines.

Even with all the precautions, accidents will happen, which is where insurance comes in.

“Whether the ball smashes a window, goes through a skylight or breaks an ornamental piece on your patio, as long as you have a comprehensive, all-risk policy you’ll be covered,” said Ross Bucsis, the Alberta manager for Westland Insurance in Calgary.

He speaks from experience, as the insurance veteran put through several window and glass claims himself when his golf course home was hit routinely many years ago. And while the coverage can be a comfort, there’s also a catch.

“Most homeowner policies in Alberta have a minimum $1,000 deductible,” said Bucsis. “Unless a ball breaks your window when you’re away for five days and your flooring is destroyed by rain, you’re unlikely to reach that $1,000 figure.”

“Whether the ball smashes a window, goes through a skylight or breaks an ornamental piece on your patio, as long as you have a comprehensive, all-risk policy you’ll be covered.” – Ross Bucsis, Alberta manager for Westland Insurance

His advice to those living near courses is to call their broker and ask for a lower deductible on their home and content insurance, which includes glass.

Alternatively, a homeowner or their insurance company might go after the golfer involved. Compensation could be sought under that person’s comprehensive liability policy that extends from their homeowner or tenant insurance.

The affected party could also pursue legal action against the golf course itself, though that is complicated somewhat by the risk homeowners assume when purchasing a course-adjacent home. As with most issues of this nature, if in doubt, consult a lawyer.

Rather than rely on insurance or litigation, homeowners also have the option of taking matters into their own hands.

“We offer a shade mesh that’s similar to a window screen, but with heavier material that doesn’t stretch or rip or fray,” said Troy Assaly, sales manager for EZ Snap.

In addition to blocking up to 90 per cent of the sun’s heat, their shade acts as a buffer to break the momentum of a golf ball before it breaks the glass.

Depending on their situation, homeowners could also try the approach that Assaly’s parents took after a golf ball shattered a glass table at their Kelowna home.

“They bought pull-down outdoor shades from Costco and hung them under the eaves in the direction that balls were coming from,” said Assaly.

However, in their case, the course was up on a hill, so homes on the same level as the golfers might need a different approach.

In the end, although homeowners might need to get creative, there are many ways to enjoy a golf course home while keeping that investment protected.

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