If you’re like me, golf insurance is probably one of the last things you’ve ever thought about.
I’ve been playing golf for many years now and I must confess it’s never even crossed my mind.
But after striking the window of a house last month after hitting a massive slice off the 16th tee my playing partners succeeded in getting me thinking about little much else.
“What if your ball had hit the owner in the garden instead of the window?” “Did you read about that case where a golfer had to pay another player hundreds of thousands of pounds after hitting him with a wayward shot?”
So after nervously laughing off these hypothetical questions, I went straight home to start doing some research into the topic of whether I need golf insurance or not?
Here’s what I found out.
Golf insurance is not required by law but golf cart insurance often is. Liability for golfing incidents varies between countries and golf insurance covers many different risks that can come with playing golf. Other common insurance policies often do not give golfers protection in all situations.
I must confess I’m always suspicious of insurance policies in general.
There always seems to be an exclusion which catches your claim out or if you do have a legitimate claim its low value often means it’s not worth your while to lose your no claims bonus for.
But it turns out there are plenty of things to consider when weighing up if golf insurance is a good idea or not.
Your other insurance policies may not always cover what you think they do when it comes to golf and if you’ve ever hit a hole in one it turns out golf insurance can even come in handy at the 19th hole!
Golf Accidents Happen but Who is to Blame?
Nobody is ever going to argue golf is a ‘high risk’ activity compared to other sports.
But however low-risk golf is no activity comes with zero risk.
When you’re swinging metal clubs, sending balls flying often in uncontrolled directions and driving around in golf carts, there’s plenty of potential for injury to you and others as well as property damage.
And golfers are playing for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours before heading to the 19th hole for some food and drink whilst leaving a lot of expensive equipment sitting unattended next to the course or in the car.
So there’s always a chance you could hit or be hit by, another golfer, send your ball through a car windscreen or house window, break a club or have all your golf clubs stolen from your car.
And while you might think golf ball injuries are not anyone’s fault the particular circumstances may mean differently.
It is estimated about 40,000 people each year end up in the emergency room as a result of an injury on a golf course.
Sure it makes it pretty rare but 40,000 is still a lot of people.
Golfers in the U.S. are somewhat lucky because if a stray golf ball or club hits someone they usually aren’t responsible for any injuries or medical expenses that result.
And neither is the golf course and this holds true even if the golfer who hit the ball failed to shout a warning ‘fore’.
This is because, in general, you are only liable for damage that is due to obvious negligence or recklessness.
And in the U.S. golf ball injuries don’t usually fall under that category.
Also by presenting non-liability signage a golf course is letting any golfer know that by playing they are agreeing to take responsibility for any reasonable accidents that occur.
Unfortunately things can be different in many countries.
In Scotland for example in 2011 a golfer was required to pay nearly £400,000, equivalent to just over $500k, in damages after the ball he struck hit someone in the eye.
And that was despite yelling ‘Fore’!
There have been similar rulings in England, where a golfer shouted ‘Fore’ as his ball cannoned around some trees before hitting another player in the next fairway.
He also had to pay damages.
Despite these rulings each golfing and potential legal case would clearly be decided on its own merits and no two cases are the same.
But if you live outside the U.S., or are travelling from the U.S. to play golf abroad, it’s worth checking to see who is liable in accidents like these.
If it’s the golfer, it would seem sensible at a minimum to check any existing insurance policies you have or look at golf insurance, to see if you have protection in such a situation.
What Does Golf Insurance Cover?
Before anyone can make a decision about golf insurance it’s clearly important to know what protection typical golf insurance policies give you.
In general golf insurance will cover you for:
- Golf equipment – Repairing or replacing damaged or stolen golf gear.
- Public / Third Party liability – Any damage you cause to someone or someone else’s property while you are playing golf.
- Personal Injury – Any injury you suffer as a result of playing golf.
- Membership fees – If you cannot play due to illness or injury.
- Hole in one costs – Your bar bill will be taken care of up to a limit if you are lucky enough to hit a hole in one!
- Overseas cover – an add-on feature on some policies many include worldwide cover as standard when you play abroad.
Nobody of course wants anything bad to happen when they play golf but as we noted above accidents do happen and golf insurance policies are a way of covering you against the risks that exist.
The technology used to make modern golf clubs has clearly come a long way, particularly over the last 30 or so years, but clubs can of course break from time to time.
A good golf insurance policy will cover repairs and replacements for most or all of your golf equipment and accessories, even if the damage happens of the golf course.
And without golf insurance it can be hard to coverage for many of these items.
Most of the coverage relating to golf insurance is there as we can see to help when things go wrong.
But some policies will also step in when things go right and there are potentially some hefty expenses to deal with.
Golfing tradition dictates for example that if ever score a hole-in-one, you’ll be expected to buy drinks for everyone in your group.
And depending on who you talk to, you might even have to buy for everyone in the bar when you get off the course.
You can’t be forced to buy of course but with hole-in-one insurance you can use a golf policy to happily cover your unexpected bar bill for all those drinks, up to a certain amount.
For others also, hole-in-one insurance can have a slightly different meaning.
If you’re in charge of a golf outing for example, this kind of inusrance allows you to offer a big prize for a hole-in-one without worrying about the cost.
All you have to pay is the price of the insurance itself – a lot less than the thousands of dollars, pounds or euros that many expect from such prizes.
But as with everything there is always a cost catch although golf insurance is in general quite affordable.
For instance, a basic policy from reputable golf insurance providers costs less than $2 per month.
Just like with other kinds of insurance however the exact price of any individual policy will vary and different amounts of financial cover will be offered at different price levels.
Based on our research though golf insurance policies ranged from $25 to $100 a year, depending on the level of policy chosen and the individual insurer.
Doesn’t House / Car / Travel Insurance Cover Golf?
A common belief when it comes to the subject of insurance and golf is that a combination of a golfer’s existing home insurance and/or car and/or travel insurance policies cover everything that’s needed when it comes to golf.
However as anyone reading this who has ever made an insurance claim will know it’s an absolute must to check the fine print of any of your existing insurance policies to confirm that is correct.
Some home insurance policies for example specifically exclude specialist sporting equipment, such as golf clubs, from the definition of ‘personal possessions’ covered.
And even when policies do cover golf clubs the protection it affords against loss or theft sometimes only applies when your golf equipment is at home and not when you take your gear away – for example to the golf course to play.
Other home and car policies can also exclude coverage if your clubs are left in cars sitting in garages which are not ‘integrated with the house’ or driveways, even if they are still technically within your home’s boundary.
In recent years also many insurers have stripped out ‘extras’ like ‘personal injury’ and ‘public liability’ cover from their home insurance policies to keep premiums down.
Or it may turn out ‘public liability’ protection is attached to the buildings element of an insurance policy so a person who rents and therefore only has contents insurance, may not be covered.
Even so it is highly unlikely this type of protection will extend to when you are playing golf.
Meanwhile, travel insurance covering playing golf clearly only covers you while you are on your golf trip and does not apply while you are regularly playing on your home course.
If you don’t have bespoke golf insurance therefore it’s worth double checking what your existing insurance policies do cover you for to ensure there are not gaps which expose you to risks you are not happy with.
And rather than adding ‘extras’ to the existing home or car or travel cover you already have it’s worth checking the cost of this against the cost of a specific golfing policy to make sure it’s not more expensive.
Be careful also about the myth that a golf club will have its own insurance policy that will cover all those who play the course.
That’s not completely true.
Any insurance the club has is there to protect it’s own interests, if it’s negligence was to blame for an injury but if a problem arises because of your own negligent conduct it’s very likely you’ll be on your own.
And finally, if you are unfortunate enough to need to make a claim with regard to a golf-related incident remember you can’t claim for a full amount from multiple insurers as that’s fraud!
Is Golf Insurance Worth it?
As I said at the outset I have a natural tendency now to be suspiscious of insurance and when anyone mentions I need need yet another insurance policy I am increasingly so.
However, the fact that golf insurance exists at all clearly shows there is a risk there and so I would simply suggest any golfer, and particularly those who are playing regularly, takes a few minutes to confirm they are happy with whatever coverage they already have or to accept the risks associated with playing golf.
I’ve been playing golf for many years and my recent experience of hitting a house with a wayward tee shot is the first time I can remember being involved in a golf ‘incident’.
So the risks can legitimately be argued by some to be small.
But if you are thinking about whether you should get golf insurance also here are few things to consider:
- The amount you play – It stands to reason that the more often you play the more likely it is you will lose or damage your equipment or be involved in a golfing accident.
- Where you play your golf – The rules of golf may be the same but the legal rules regarding golf accidents are often very different. So golf cover may make more sense in some places compared to others.
- The amount you for pay for golf membership – Golf club memberships often don’t come cheap, sometimes totalling many hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year, so depending on whether you are a member of a course it could add up to a lot of wasted money if you can’t play due to injury.
- The value of your golf gear – If you like buying the latest high-end golf equipment the bill to replace your gear could add up to a large sum if they were lost or stolen.
- Your existing insurance coverage – The home, car and/or travel insurance policies you already have may give you all the cover you want but it’s definitely worth checking the small print.
In the end of course whether you feel the need to have specialised golf insurance is a personal choice.
Many golf traditionalists believe there is a unspoken rule amongst golfers that once a player sets foot onto the golfing arena they automatically accept any risks involved of potentially being hit by a ball or getting injured.
Modern society, with its ever increasing blame culture, clearly does not work like that however and people in general are ever more likely to pursue a compensation approach when things go wrong.
Others believe the argument for ensuring you have adequate golf insurance is a moral one.
If for example, you play a lot of golf at your home club it’s highly probable you will know, or even be good friends with, the other person involved in any golf accident.
If either you or them is injured and the other party is uninsured this could potentially result in a difficult problem.
In such circumstances the premium of a golf insurance policy might be well worth the peace of mind it provides.
As with anything insurance, and potentially legally, related each incident is different and is evaluated based on its own specific set of circumstances.
What is clear now though, unfortunately, is that a shout of ‘Fore’ is not automatically sufficient to remove a golfer’s responsibility.
Golf insurance is also like every other insurance policy.
There are exclusions and caveats to them so make sure you read the fine print on them too in order to make sure you’re covered for the risks you think you are!
Golf Cart Insurance is a Different Story
One final thing it’s important to be clear on when it comes to the subject of insurance in golf is that golf cart insurance is different.
While golf insurance is not mandated insurance of golf carts is required by law in many states, such as Arizona and South Carolina.
If you are lucky, your home or car insurance may extend to your golf cart, so you might not need to buy a separate policy.
But when a cart is on course, it faces a number of risks that street vehicles don’t face.
If your park your cart on an incline for example and it rolls back into the water due to driver error or a fault that’s a pretty unusual accident that your existing auto insurance might not cover.
So if you are wondering about insurance for your golf cart, you should beck your state’s or countries laws to see if it’s required, as well as the coverage provided by any policies you already have.
And even if you are not legally required to buy golf cart insurance it can still often make sense to do so.
Research published in the Current Sports Medicine Reports highlighted that 147,000 visits to emergency rooms between 1990 and 2006 were as a result of cart-related injuries, a 130% increase.
In 2006 alone almost 10,000 injuries were estimated to be golf related and serious enough to require medical attention.
So while golf carts have inevitably been a welcome addition to golf in some respects they clearly bring with them some additional risks you will want to make sure you are covered for.