An army veteran has launched legal action against an Aberdeenshire golf club after he was hit in the head by a ball.
Terry Gosling spent five days in hospital after being struck outside his home near Alford Golf Club.
The 75-year-old, who was a captain with the Gordon Highlanders, is now suing the club, who were hosting the Gents Open when the incident happened on June 27.
It is understood a golfer taking part in the event hooked their shot too far to the left, and sent the ball flying over the Lang Stracht, where it hit Mr Gosling as he returned home from the annual Armed Forces Day procession in Aberdeen.
Ambulances were called to the scene, and the pensioner was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a serious head injury.
The club has already taken steps to ensure a repeat of the incident does not happen again.
Last night, Mr Gosling declined to comment on the case.
But neighbours of the Lang Stracht – which runs parallel to the course’s eighth and ninth holes – admitted they feared they would also be hit after years of wayward balls crashing into their homes and windows.
It is understood some have even had their triple-glazed windows smashed, as well as the slates from their roofs knocked loose.
One said: “A lot of my neighbours have had the balls fly into their gardens too. I’m worried about what might happen.
“It’s really tough to figure out what to do. They could put up a mesh fence, but the balls already go all the way over the trees and still hit the house, so they need to re-position the tees away from the road.”
The club declined to comment on the incident yesterday.
But in a letter sent out to members, club captain Gavin Chalmers said: “As a result of a stray golf ball during play in the Gents Open on the above date, a resident of Lang Stracht was seriously injured and required treatment in hospital.
“Immediately following this event, the committee has already taken numerous steps and is investigating several other measures to minimise risk to persons on and off the course.
“The resident has appointed a solicitor who has contacted the club seeking damages for the injury sustained.
“In conjunction with our insurers and the cover in place, the committee is endeavouring to resolve the matter as swiftly as possible.
“The committee will update the members accordingly and appropriately in respect of any and all changes to the course and the result of the claim once concluded.”
The course opened as a nine-hole course in 1982, and later expanded to 18 holes in 1992 – by which point homes had been built on the nearby Lang Stracht.
Over the years, residents on the street have amassed collections of stray balls, varying from little baskets to entire shopping bags full.
One said: “I haven’t been hit myself, but I have had balls land on my roof. We have trees along the road, but they don’t really block anything but the view.
“The tee is basically too close to the road, they’ve hit the slate on the roof of my garage a good few times.
“I’m a golfer myself, so I know it’s not too difficult to hook a ball over here, there’s no real protection.”
Previous cases: Others who have been hit by a golf ball
Terry Gosling is not the first person to seek compensation after being hit by a golf ball.
Novice golfer Anthony Phee was awarded £400,000 after losing an eye as he played at Niddy Castle golf course in Winchburgh, West Lothian in 2011.
He sued James Gordon, the man who struck the bad shot, and the golf club at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, seeking damages for the injury he suffered.
Mr Phee said it had been a “harrowing experience” to partially lose his sight.
Lord Brailsford ruled that Mr Gordon was 70% responsible for the accident, with the remaining portion of blame resting on the golf club for its “failure” to erect proper warning signs on the course.
And earlier this year, a golfer also won £10,000 in damages after another player’s mis-hit ball struck him on the head.
John Ure was on the fairway at Bellshill Golf Club, Lanarkshire, when an errant drive swung to the right and hit him with such force it knocked him to the ground.
The 46-year-old launched legal action against fellow player Stewart Muir, saying he felt nauseous and later required hospital treatment.
The action was raised in March 2013, but the case was not heard until May this year at the Court of Session in Edinburgh – where it was ruled the other player was liable.
Lord Brailsford said that the risk of an errant shot creating a danger was “reasonably foreseeable” and ordered Mr Muir to pay £10,000 in damages.
Hit by a golf ball… So what is the law?
Dispute resolution specialist Leonie Donald said a number of similar cases has been raised in England by the neighbours of cricket clubs.
The partner at law firm Aberdein Considine said the court would have to “balance the rights of local golfers” against local residents’ rights to enjoy their homes and gardens.
“Both golf and cricket clubs have a general duty to ‘take reasonable care’ of their neighbours,” she said.
“The test is whether a ‘reasonable person’ would foresee the potential for being hit by a ball. It is certainly arguable that it is reasonably foreseeable here.
“The house owner will require to establish negligence by the owners of the club, the members.
“There is one very old case that the neighbour could rely upon, where the chairman of the local cricket club, on behalf of its members was held to be liable in nuisance-negligence for damage caused to the property by balls being hit over the boundary.
“The club erected a fence over 7ft on top of a 6ft boundary wall to try and prevent balls from going into the neighbour’s garden. However, a few balls still went over the large fence.
“The Court of Appeal in 1977 held that there was a foreseeable risk of injury to the neighbours and their property from the cricket balls and the club could not prevent accidents from happening.
“The club was guilty of negligence on each occasion the ball goes over the fence and causes damage.
“The fact that the neighbours had moved next door to a cricket club after it was built was not a sufficient defence.
“This will be a helpful case for the Alford pensioner.
“In particular, the court’s ruling that it had to ‘strike a fair balance between the right of the plaintiffs to have quiet enjoyment of their house and garden without exposure to cricket balls occasionally falling like thunderbolts from the heavens, and the opportunity of the inhabitants of the village in which they live to continue to enjoy the sport’.
“No doubt the same considerations will be applied to this latest case.”