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Drive Crom Street at your own risk
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Next time I need to access Crom Street to get to either Airport Way or Union Road, I’ll think twice about taking that route.

I’m going to ask myself first: Is there an alternate route that I can take to where I’m going, or should I take the risk of possibly being the unintended target of a flying errant golf ball?

What got me considering this dilemma was a voice mail message from a reader of this newspaper named Olivia. She did not leave me her last name or a telephone number where she could be reached. But she left details about a recent golf-ball incident that happened to her while driving on Crom and asked what she could do to get the issue resolved.

Crom Street is on the north side of the Manteca Community Golf Course. A cyclone fence separates the road from the greens, plus a stand of evergreen trees, and that’s all. There is no high mesh net, such as the one installed between the Golf Villas houses and the golf links, to prevent any flying ball from going over the fence and accidentally hitting a vehicle or person on the street.

Someone I know who is familiar with the layout and orientation of the golf links told me that the golf course was constructed in such a way that a player’s ball would not normally go north to the fence and beyond, so there’s really no need for a high net on that side.

But, testified Olivia, “There have been incidents with golf balls down Crom Street going across the fence.”

In fact, she said, “I had an incident that just happened where (a golf ball) actually hit my car and left a big dent on my hood and also on the top of my roof.”

Following the normal course of events when one’s car is involved in a fender bender, she contacted the golf course personnel who referred her to City Hall since the golf course is owned by the city. And here’s where Olivia got the rub.

“In contacting the golf course, they said they weren’t responsible, it was the city. And in contacting the city, they told me that they weren’t responsible either because when you go down Crom Street you are assuming risk going down that street. Assuming risk – I don’t know what they mean,” she said.

She thought that rationale was just “ridiculous.”

“It’d be like me hitting somebody’s dog and the person responsible for the damage would be the owner of that dog,” Olivia rationalized.
I called City Hall to find out the reasoning behind the immunity defense being claimed by the golf course and the city over an incident described by Olivia.

Golf course was there first
I was directed to the office of Joe Kriskovich, the Administrative Services director. Here’s how Kriskovich explained that immunity rationale.

“There’s a statute on the books that’s been there for quite some time now that basically gives immunity to a golf course if the golf course was there prior to the houses which, in this (Olivia’s) case, it was. The person’s only recourse would be to locate or try to identify that person who struck that golf ball, and go after that person as an individual or their insurance. The golf course has immunity because it was there prior to the houses.”

Olivia did not mention whether she lives in the residential area north of Crom Street. And since she did not leave any phone number, I did not have any way of finding that out.

I do not live in that area, but I sometimes use Crom Street to get to Airport Way from Union Road and vice versa. That being the case, my question is: how about those who live in houses that predate the golf course? If their vehicles get damaged by a golf ball while they are driving by Crom, would they also fall under something that’s similar to a caveat emptor – buyer beware – which, in this case, would be “motorist beware?” And how would one know to whom does the golf ball that hit you or your car belong? The last time I went and played at the golf course in Manteca, I did not have my name imprinted on the balls that I used.

Under that kind of scenario, I would not want to be in the shoes of a parent whose child – heaven forbid – was hit by a golf ball while walking to or from school and would like to seek redress, medical or otherwise.

The risks were there when you moved in
I do understand though about owning up to the attendant risks when you knowingly build a home right next door to a golf course. Or, for that matter, if you live in a private golf community such as Spring Creek Country Club in Ripon or Del Rio in Modesto, which is quite common these days. To me, that’s akin to buying a home next to an agricultural land that’s actively being used for raising a variety of crops, or next to a dairy farm. If you decide to live in a residential subdivision next to a farm, as is pretty much common these days with the ongoing urban sprawl happening everywhere especially in California, there’s a tacit understanding that you know there will be bovine-related smells wafting from the dairy, crop dusters spraying the fields outside your fence, grape harvesters disturbing your sleep at night in the fall, and pollen from the almond orchard next door tickling your nose, not to mention the buzzing bees. These farming operations were there long before you showed up in their horizon, so you really can’t complain about them messing up your quality of life and intruding on your peace of mind.

Unless, of course, there’s negligence involved or intentional harm committed. Then that’s an entirely different matter altogether.