Out of the Rough

How the PGA Tour Can Be Held Accountable for Fan Safety

Golf is a sport that can trace its roots back to the 1400s and is famed for its rules. In the legal system, however, it is the “baseball rule” that governs over golf-related injuries. This rule, originally applied to professional baseball, limits the liability for sporting venues as long as they offer some protected seats. As golf has risen in popularity, so have the number of fans at PGA Tour events. Coupled with less accurate players, and balls traveling faster than ever, injuries to fans have become increasingly common. Despite states moving away from assumption of risk tort schemes, the baseball rule has remained, serving as a narrow doctrine that lowers the burden of care required by stadiums and sporting venues. Conversely, businesses in the United States operate under the concept of premises liability—specifically, a business inviter-invitee relationship. This requires a business owner to undertake reasonable care or keep the premises reasonably safe. This Note argues that professional baseball and professional golf are too different for the baseball rule to be applied properly to golf. With no central playing field in golf, for instance, the golf playing surface is nearly endless. Instead, the PGA Tour should be held to the business inviter duty of care. Protecting fans will not only grow the game of golf but improve the experience for everyone.

a J.D. Candidate, 2021, University of Illinois College of Law; B.S., Florida State University. Thank you to the editors, members, and staff of the University of Illinois Law Review for all of your work on this Note. Tessa, thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I couldn’t have done this without you. To my sisters and family, thank you for your never-ending support. Finally, to my parents, I will never be able to thank you enough for all the sacrifices you’ve made for me and for your constant love and encouragement.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.