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'Happy Gilmore' Golf Shot Breaches Duty of Care

Attention all hack golfers: It has now been judicially decreed, in Nova Scotia, at least, that the "Happy Gilmore" golf shot is a breach of the standard of care required of a golfer playing on a course with other golfers.

As a refresher, this is what the "Happy Gilmore shot" looks like (from the Adam Sandler movie "Happy Gilmore," of course):

The Slaw blog wrote on Friday that in the recent case of Bezanson v. Hayter, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia had no trouble concluding that the Happy Gilmore shot was, as Carl Spackler similarly said about gophers in "Caddyshack," a menace to the golfing industry. Looking at the facts of the case, they are pretty much exactly what you would expect from a bachelor party golf outing that involved dozens of beers, a bottle of tequila, several marijuana joints smoked "before the third hole," "power slides" in the golf carts and clubs smashed against trees.

All of this action was a mere warm-up to the 16th hole, however, when the defendant hit his first shot into the woods, took a mulligan second shot, and then decided to take one more shot "Happy Gilmore"-style despite the fact that the other players had moved ahead with their carts up the fairway. The court says the defendant stepped back five or six feet from the ball and then took two full steps up to strike the ball, which went off the heel of the club directly at the plaintiff. Although the plaintiff did not seek medical attention before the wedding, he later alleged “significant daily left hand and wrist pain" to the point that he "is unable to grip to hold his chain saw,” and therefore was “completely disabled from doing his work.”

The court concluded that the defendant did breach the standard of care owed to other players on the course:

Having taken his tee shot, and then a provisional second shot, he was, or ought to have been, aware that the players ahead of him believed he was finished at the tee. He did not give any indication that he was taking a third shot -- let alone a “Happy Gilmore” shot -- until he was in the process of doing so. I am convinced that the “Happy Gilmore” shot would have been less controllable than a normal tee shot, both because it involved a run-up to the ball (rather than an aimed shot from a stationary position) and because the defendant had been drinking throughout the day...

The defendant's conduct breached the standard of care required of a golfer playing on a course with other golfers. The defendant's behaviour was not among the “natural risks” of golfing to which the plaintiff can be said to have consented.

And so it is written, golfers. You take your Happy Gilmore shots at your own peril!

Posted by Bruce Carton on November 23, 2009 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)


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