'How many golf balls is too many?' Strata dispute ponders the big questions

A man living on the edge of a golf course took his strata to a civil resolution tribunal after reaching his limit — of errant golf balls.

Man living on edge of golf course asks civil resolution tribunal to order strata to fix fairway

Michael Moore took his strata to B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal after complaining that his golf-course adjacent home was subject to a rain of errant balls. (Will Hughes/Shutterstock)

Michael Moore is a man living on the edge — of a golf course.

Kamloops' Rivershore Golf Links was designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr., a global golf course architect famous for saying: "The sun never sets on the Robert Trent Jones empire."

In his complaint to B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal, Moore claimed the risk of being struck by an errant golf ball rarely abated either.

And by the time he took his beef with his strata to the CRT, Moore had reached his limit.

But what is too much when it comes to off-target Titleists, a home to the west of the fairway and a golf course of which Moore, as a member of the strata, is himself a part owner?

It's a mystery for the ages.

"One question that arises is this: in terms of errant gold balls, what constitutes unreasonable interference? How many golf balls is too many?" tribunal vice-chair Shelley Lopez asks in her ruling.

"I accept in that around 80 to 100 balls per season would be a nuisance in a non-strata context, given the case law discussed below. The question in whether in the strata context those 80 to 100 errant balls per season are an actionable nusiance."

The 'prestige' of a Robert Trent Jones course

The case highlights the bizarre Canadian legal history surrounding errant golf balls and irritated home owners.

Lopez has ordered the strata to plant three maple trees, re-shape the tee box on the third hole and place signs warning golfers to yell: "Fore!" before taking a swing in Moore's direction.

B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal heard that Michael Moore's home was subject to about 80 errant golf balls during the course of the eight-month season. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

According to the decision, that represents mixed success for Moore, who lost his battle to have the trees planted in locations the strata argued would have "hurt the prestige" of the Robert Trent Jones Sr. course and "decrease the revenue it generates."

Moore claimed somewhere between 30 and 130 golf balls a year land in his yard, hitting his house and potentially injuring family and guests. The strata conducted a study which put the number closer to 80 balls per eight-month season.

But is that a lot?

Lopez' search for answers took her to a Nanaimo provincial court case in which neighbours of a golf course complained about as many as 400 golf balls a year flying onto their lawns — not to mention broken windows and golfers urinating in their yards.

She also cited a case that saw an Alberta family seek an injunction limiting the use of the 10th hole of a nearby fairway as a result of 100 balls a year, some "with sufficient velocity and height to break windows and glass doors."

'He has assumed some risk'

But as Lopez pointed out, unlike Moore, none of those people actually owned a piece of the course.

"Here, the owner chose to buy a strata lot located on a golf course and in doing so chose to become a 1/200th owner in that golf course. He has assumed some risk with that choice," she wrote.

"Perhaps not surprisingly, the strata submits that owners who choose to purchase strata lots adjacent to the golf course make that decision with the knowledge that errant golf balls may from time to time enter their yard."

While Lopez said she accepts that Moore "and his family are anxious about golf balls entering his yard unpredictably," she found that 80 to 100 errant balls is not unreasonable in a strata context.

Since the strata has an obligation to reasonably maintain the course in the best interests of all owners, Lopez issued the order for the trees, the tee-box move and the signs largely in accordance with the strata's submissions.

She also noted that Moore is free to install a net on his lot. 

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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