http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/01/18/golf-balls-threaten-round-hill-residents


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - January 18, 2008

Golf balls threaten Round Hill residents

Couple suing over shortened driving range at country club

by Natalie O'Neill

The sound of breaking glass made Kenneth Barker and his wife look up from their leisurely lunch. A bright yellow golf ball had just flown into the window of their Round Hill home - again.

Barker has lived at the end of Round Hill Country Club's driving range since 1974 and says he can expect over 100 golf balls to soar onto his property per month. Seven of his windows have been broken, and he and his wife have been hit multiple times by balls, court documents allege.

"It's a safety problem. People have been killed by golf balls," said Barker.

He's now suing the country club with the goal of either having the driving range shut down or mandating that it be longer than 375 yards.

"We're captives in our own house," he said this week.

The "continual bombardment" began in the mid 1990s, after the country club shortened the range from 260 yards to 190 yards while refiguring the golf course and revamping the clubhouse. The couple now rarely uses their yard and garden for fear they'll get struck, Barker said.

"I've been hit in my rear end, shoulder and neck. The worst thing about it is the shock," Barker said.

But management at the country club says the couple knew what they were getting into when they moved into the lot - that balls would be hit toward their home.

"The fact is you purchased the property with ... acknowledgement that golf balls from the course and driving range are driven in the direction of your lot," General Manager Greg Gonsalves wrote in a letter to Barker last summer.

His letter also states the club believes it has done everything it can to solve the problem.

That includes banning wooden clubs, which generally propel the ball further than iron, and offering to construct a fence. Gonsalves could not be reached by press time to comment further.

"The club feels it has taken reasonable measures to mitigate the use of the range," he wrote. His letter was dated June 13, 2007.

But court evidence in the form of a photograph - dated two weeks after Gonsalves' letter - shows 107 golf balls lined into rows on the Barker property. The photo illustrates how many balls had been projected onto their property in 22 days.

"We've pleaded with them, they've made promises, but they've done nothing," Barker said. "They're arrogant."

The fence that currently separates his property from the driving range is made of black netted material and stands about 15 feet high with about 5 feet of ivy on top of that. The couple use the plants to shield themselves from showering balls.

If a higher fence were put in by the club it's expected to be about 45 feet tall. It would likely be made of similar black mesh material.

But that's not what the Barkers want. The wall would send their property value plummeting, he said.

"It would depreciate the value of our home by about half a million dollars," he said. "It would be an eyesore. It would look tacky."

Gusts of wind and strong hitters still currently send balls over his roof and into his front yard on Royal Oaks Drive. He said those hitters would still clear the height of the new fence - even with 25 feet or so added to the height.

Both parties have tried for months to solve the issue without litigation but to no avail.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in about six months and will take into account alleged violations of nuisance, breach of contract and implied covenant of good faith on the part of Round Hill Country Club.

Legally, "nuisance" is defined as anything that annoys or disturbs unreasonably, hurts a person's use of property, privacy or violates health, safety or decency.

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