Don't Spike Your Golf Shoe Policy
PDRMA offers policy advice and a checklist for preventing slips and
falls in the new metal-spikeless golf environment
BY DR. KEVIN MARKS
Regretfully, the potential exists forslip and fall
I can still remember the surprise it gave me. It was during my weekly round of golf early last spring. It had rained the evening before. I had just hit my drive and was walking over the arched bridge approaching the 16th fairway. As I made the final few steps down the wet, plywood deck, I began to slip, and let out a "Whoa!" to warn the rest of our foursome.
Never before had that happened to me in years ofcrossing. After catching my balance, I immediately wondered: How many othersbefore us this morningexperienced the same thing?
Up to that point there had been nothing unusual with the new plastic cleats I was now wearing. Like millions of golfers, I began thetransition away from steel spiked golf shoes last year instead of waiting until the ban went into effect this yearat my home course. For more than a decade, I had done my part as a regular playerto help with "in-play aeration" of the many putting surfaces I walked on. However, like most, my home course chose smoother greens and quality of play over the aeration benefit theory. But did they know about the danger lurking on the bridge?
A majority of golf courses nationwide have alreadyinstituted policies on outlawing metal golf spikes as method of preventing spike damage to greens ando ther surfaces throughout their facilities. Regretfully,the potential exists for slip and fall lawsuits alleging spikeless golf shoes to be "unsafe" especially when moisture or inclined surfaces are present.
With this in mind, public golf facilities shouldinstitute a properly worded policy and related procedures, to maximize safety and minimize liability exposure arising out of this policy.
A spikeless golf shoe policy should be simple. It isrecommended that the policy include the following:
• Simply state that metals pikes are not allowed. A good sample statement is"metal spikes are prohibited throughout the property, including the golf course, practice greens, driving range,clubhouse, parking lot and the like."
• Avoid telling players what they must wear or putting anything into context like "requiring spikeless shoes." Allow them to choose among the various non-metal spike options. These options include spikeless rubber sole shoes and several types of plastic replacement cleats. Remember that spikeless alternatives may not be equal on certain surfaces. It may be a good idea for your pro shop to keep many of these options on hand
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from which the golfers can choose. Understandably, a pro shop displaying metal spike golf shoes conveys a conflicting message to patrons.
• Increase safety awareness through flyers and signage (see sample sign on previous page), strategically placed at conspicuous locations. Strategic placement could include the practice green, first tee, restroom facilities, bulletin boards (which golfers typically check for scores and other information), etc.
•Place rubber matting or runners on surfaces prone to be more slippery after rain, watering or spilling. This is especially true for wood surfaces such as on bridges and indoor areas like bathroom floors. The laws of physics come into play. Moisture significantly reduces the coefficient of friction between two surfaces such as plastic cleats and a wet bridge deck.
• If someone should suffer injury from a slip-and-fall and claim that spikeless shoes were the primary cause, don't panic. Investigate the accident as you would normally. Note any contributing variables, (e.g., running, jumping in or out of golf carts, moist conditions, intoxication, etc.). Spikeless shoes may have given the victim a false sense of security.
The adoption of this type of policy should have minimum increase in liability exposure, given available common law defenses and statutory tort immunities. As noted above, spikeless shoes in and of themselves are not hazardous. Rather, a slip and fall will generally be related to a contributing factor such as surface moisture.
For example, under Illinois common law, an owner or occupier of land generally owes no legal duty to guard, warn, or otherwise protect persons from "natural" accumulations of precipitation. Similarly, under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, the public entity is afforded immunity for injuries arising out of supervision acts of discretion and/or related to weather conditions (presuming there is no premises defect). Even assuming a premises defect contributed to any accident, the facility will be afforded limited statutory immunity (willful and wanton conduct is an exception) for injuries arising out of property intended or permitted for recreational use. This applies to property not in and of itself recreational (e.g., restroom, parking lot, administrative office, etc.) as well.
Now that spikeless golf shoe policies are being enforced nationally, only time will tell how many slip-and-fall complaints will be registered. To reduce course liability, a properly worded and implemented policy is necessary. In addition, safety inspections of surface areas for the reduction of slipand-fall hazards will further improve the desired quality of play for golfers. By the way, I must not have been the only one who slipped that morning last spring; next week I noticed plenty of rubber matting covering the bridge deck!
is the information Services Manager at the Park District Risk Management Agency in Whealon, Ill. He has a doctorate in Health and Safety from Indiana University as well as an Associate in Risk Management and an Associate in Automation Management.
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DON'T SPIKE YOUR GOLF SHOE POLICY
Related Case Law
Burns v. Addison Golf Club, 161 Ill. App.3d
Pais v. City of Pontiac, 372 Mich. 582,
Jones v. New Mexico School of Mines, 75
Farfour v. Mimosa Golf Club,Inc., 240
Steele v. Jekyll Island. State Park Authority,
- compiled by Kevin Marks
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