Post written by Monica Mamer
Those of us who have grown up in the snow-belt understand that golf is a summer sport. We typically see courses shut down their facilities when the snow begins to fall. Over the past few years, however, golf courses and country clubs have been searching for ways to extend their season. They are taking advantage of their rolling hills and acreage by offering various winter activities. Although all activities increase the exposure for golf course owners, some are much more dangerous than others. So, take this opportunity to reach out to your insureds to see if they plan on offering activities for family fun this winter!
How To Make Your Course Safer and Avoid Winter Activity Incidents
Sledding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing provide a low to moderate hazard for the business owner. If a course offers these activities, they should:
- Have customers check in when they go out and come back in from the course and use a waiver or release form for all participants.
- Provide specific locations on the course for sledding, snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
- Keep people within the specified areas with the use of fencing or signage.
- Use signage and fencing to identify water hazards.
- Create a formal emergency response plan to define how a rescue would take place and to address the unique hazards of winter activities.
- Perform a nightly check of the sledding, snowshoe and cross country ski areas for potential hazards and/or damage deemed unsafe by staff or patrons.
Higher hazard activities, including ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice skating and hockey, should be discouraged. If the course decides to allow these more dangerous activities, they should take the following actions IN ADDITION to those listed above:
- Have written procedures and documentation of checking the ice for thickness and damage before allowing anyone to skate or fish.
- Restrict snowmobiling operations to only those over 18 years old.
- Set restricted hours.
- Patrol the areas frequently.
Facilities charging fees to use their land may have additional liability implied to provide a safe premises for customers. If no fees are charged, “recreational use statutes,” enacted by all 50 states, may provide some degree of liability protection to landowners, including golf courses. A listing of each state statute may be viewed at: http://nationalaglawcenter.org/state-compilations/recreational-use/
In all cases, golf courses and country clubs should take measures to reduce risks and make their premises as safe as possible. So, the next time you’re driving past the snow covered hills of a golf course, imagine yourself cruising down the hill on a sled yelling “fore!”
Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons, JPDC