Golf course incident leaves Bicton couple seething at City


Deirdre and Brendon Westerhout standing next to one of the warning signs along Honour Avenue.
The Westerhout’s smashed windscreen.
Deirdre and Brendon Westerhout standing next to one of the warning signs along Honour Avenue. The Westerhout’s smashed windscreen.

BICTON parents Brendon and Deirdre Westerhout want to warn others about the danger of travelling along Honour Avenue after narrowly avoiding what they believe could have been a catastrophic accident.

While driving past Point Walter Golf Course a stray golf ball hit from the first tee smashed into the windscreen of their car.

The impact caused Mr Westerhout – who was transporting his wife and two young children to Attadale Reserve – to veer onto the verge.

“The trajectory of where the ball hit the windshield, a millisecond later it would have come through the open window and hit me or one of the kids,” he said.

“If it had struck me in the head I may well have careered off the road and killed the whole family.”

The couple’s shock quickly turned to anger when they discovered City of Melville, which owns Point Walter Golf Course, would not take any responsibility for the incident.

“The City did not feel it had any obligation to help or repair the damage, despite providing the setting and opportunity for the offending incident,” Mr Westerhout said.

“The golf course is commercially operated by the City, with potential to adversely impact safety on the adjacent public road and footpath.”

Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox said the City’s official stance was golfers whose stray shots damage property or cause injury were responsible for the costs.

“Through the City’s risk assessment process it has also been assessed and determined that the risk of a golf ball causing injury to an individual or damage to property is a low one,” he said.

Dr Silcox also said that while the facility was run and operated by an independent contractor, warning signs were installed on the roads adjacent to Point Walter Golf Course for the attention of anyone travelling on those roads.

Additionally, one of the rules of play on the course scorecard reads: “Golfers please take care when playing holes adjacent to public roads.”

Mr Westerhout and his wife felt the City’s stance was absurd.

“We were lucky and the golfer who hit the ball walked down the fairway and owned up; but what if the golfer can’t be found or refuses to take responsibility,” he said.

“I’m also not sure how many golfers know their liability when teeing off.

“Are they capable of covering property damage, or worse still, personal injury or death, caused by striking a ball across a public roadway?”

Mr Westerhout said signs reading “Caution – exercise care when travelling past the golf course” were not enough to protect road users or abdicate the City of responsibility.

“We were driving with care and were still hit by a ball; and what about walkers or cyclists who don’t have windows to protect them?” he said.

“I understand that there is a low probability of it happening, but what the City doesn’t seem to understand is that the potential outcomes are extreme.”

Mr Westerhout was especially disappointed that after meeting with the City to discuss ways to prevent golf balls from leaving the course – such as netting or repositioning the tee box – the City settled on planting more trees along the fairway.

“There are a number of engineered solutions that could be put into place and the City just refuses to do them, on the basis of primarily cost or amenity,” he said.

“Mitigation strategies should not necessarily be based around cost and especially not what they look like.”

Dr Silcox said the closure of the road, the closure of the hole, blinker nets, repositioning of the tee box, net protection along Honour Avenue and signage were all considered.

“None of these were assessed as being effective at Point Walter Golf Course in particular in relation to this incident,” he said.

“The option to plant more trees along the first fairway is determined to be the most practical, and will be considered by the City as part of the 2016 and future winter planting programs.”

The City has not yet responded to questions about how often incidents like this one occur.