Golf Course Living Is Paradise—Except for the 651 Balls Pelting Your House and Yard
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Golf Course Living Is Paradise—Except for the 651 Balls Pelting Your House and Yard

In a Massachusetts country club battle, teed-off neighbors are suing, saying errant balls have made life a living hell. How many is ‘reasonable’?

By JAMES FANELLI
Wed, Feb 22, 2023 9:10amGrey Clock 4 min

Erik and Athina Tenczar in 2017 bought what they thought was their forever home in Kingston, Mass., a four-bedroom colonial that sits near a left-hand dogleg on the 15th hole of the Indian Pond Country Club.

To their dismay, the Tenczars soon learned that ambitious golfers regularly attempted to cut the corner, putting their house in the line of fire.

Hundreds of golf balls have pelted their house and yard since, turning the residence, they say, into a living hell. The carnage includes eight broken windows and damage to the home’s siding and deck. They have forbidden their three young children to play in the yard, worried they could be hit by a drive.

The couple sued the club the year after moving in, alleging the barrage of balls constituted civil trespass. “We are constantly thinking about the next golf ball that’s going to hit,” Mr. Tenczar testified at a 2021 trial.

The jury awarded the Tenczars $3.5 million in damages, but the highest court of Massachusetts issued a mulligan of sorts in December 2022, throwing out the verdict and ordering a retrial, scheduled for August. A new jury will need to consider whether the number of balls hitting the home is reasonable, the court said.

Living amid the manicured beauty of a golf course has its perks, from picturesque views to quick access to the clubhouse, but it has always come with the risk of intrusion from a badly missed slice or hook.

Still, even after the construction of thousands of golf-course residential developments, there are open questions of law—and neighborly decency—about how many errant shots are too many.

Brit Stenson, the president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, said designers use hazards, bunkers and water to direct play away from homes along holes, but it is nearly impossible for houses to avoid being hit altogether.

“Today’s golfers often swing really hard at the ball, but they don’t always know where it’s going,” he said.

In the Tenczars’ case, the state high court didn’t cite a legal precedent for its test but said that an easement on their property gave Indian Pond the right to operate a golf course in a reasonable manner. “With golf, some errant shots, way off line, are inevitable, but a predictable pattern of errant shots that arise from unreasonable golf course operation is not,” it said, calling for improved jury instructions at the next trial.

In the U.S. more than 3,300 golf courses operate at over 2,750 facilities classified as residential developments, according to the National Golf Foundation. Many developments have easements and restrictions baked into surrounding residential lots, releasing golf courses from liability and in some cases allowing golfers to retrieve balls from properties. Despite the legal barriers, some homeowners have tried to hold courses or individual golfers accountable.

Leslie Stevens, whose Parker, Colo., home sits on the right side of a fairway, said management at the Black Bear Golf Club changed hands in recent years, and new ownership sought to increase the total number of daily rounds. More golfers has meant more wandering drives pelting her property.

Ms. Stevens said she has chased down golfers on a couple of occasions and asked them to pay for windows they shattered. “They would say, ‘Oh no, you assume the risk. I don’t,’” she said.

She installed protective netting in her backyard but later took some of it down because of the diminished aesthetics. “Who wants to be on a golf course,” she asked, “where you feel caged in?”

The Black Bear’s general manager, Heath Robberson, said the golf club takes homeowners’ concerns seriously and repositions tee boxes when reasonable.

“However, homeowners who purchase a home on a golf course should expect the periodic intrusion of golf balls, especially when they’ve agreed to assume such risks through the covenants governing their property,” he said.

In Anaheim, Calif., Casa Hermosa Mobile Home Park and Dad Miller Golf Course lived in harmony next to one another for years. Balls began striking some mobile homes in 2021, residents say, when a tee box was altered and trees removed while the course was working on a flood channel.

In addition to the damaged property, some residents no longer feel safe tending to their gardens, said Bobbie Crawford, an 80-year-old park resident who manages the facility. “I guess we could buy bicycle helmets,” she said.

Last month the mobile home park’s owner sued the city of Anaheim, which owns the course. An Anaheim spokesman said Dad Miller has been a great neighbor and the city was surprised and disappointed by the suit.

Michael Johnstone, who specialises in forensic investigations of golf-course design and served as an expert witness for the Tenczars in Massachusetts, said he recommends changes to courses, such as reversing a hole or turning a par 5 into a par 4, to correct for a high frequency of wayward shots landing in a certain area.

On rare occasions, though, golfers intentionally try to hit a home, Mr. Johnstone said.

“It’s Friday night and they’re having beers and they say, ‘Who can hit the brick house?’” he said.

The Tenczars, who aren’t golfers, testified that when they purchased the newly built home they never asked questions about the course and didn’t foresee dealing with stray balls.

John Flemming, an attorney for Indian Pond Country Club, said simple due diligence would have given them an idea of what to expect. “All you have to do is google it,” he said.

The Indian Pond course met all the golf design guidelines, Mr. Flemming said, adding that the builder of the Tenczars’ home removed trees and vegetation that helped serve as a buffer. In 2019 the course made alterations to direct shots away from the home, he said, reducing the number of balls hitting the property to between 89 and 99 a year from about 130.

After the jury verdict, two of the 15th hole’s tee boxes were moved farther back, which helped reduce the number of balls landing on the property to 10 for the 2022 season.

At the 2021 trial, Robert Galvin, the Tenczars’ attorney, introduced as evidence a laundry basket containing 651 balls the couple had collected. The judge accepted a photo instead of the basket to alleviate the burden of the clerk’s office storing the balls.

Ms. Tenczar testified that the ordeal gave their then-5-year-old daughter a bad impression of the sport.

“She recently asked me why golfers are bad people, and I had to explain to her that they are not,” Ms. Tenczar told jurors. “There is an issue at the golf course that needs to be fixed, and mommy and daddy are trying to fix it.”



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We reveal the No. 1 areas for price growth in each capital city

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Jul 18, 2024 3 min

Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.

 

Sydney

Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.

 

Melbourne

Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.

 

Brisbane

Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.

 

Adelaide

Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.

 

Perth 

Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.

 

Canberra

Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.

 

Hobart

Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.

 

Darwin

Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.

 

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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