The Perils of Living on the Green

So you want to live in a home on a golf course? You may want think twice about that.

The cachet that comes from that beautiful expanse of green outside your window and country club living, also comes balls.

Hundreds and hundreds of golf balls.

Ask Willam and Dorothy Abbott in North Naples, Fla. For more than 15 years, the couple has tried to co-exist with the Stonebridge Country Club next door. But errant golf balls have rained down on their property, breaking windows, roof tiles and patio screens. The Naples Daily News reports the couple has tried to get the country club to pay to repair the damage but to no avail. When the Abbotts built their retirement home in 1988, there was no golf course next door. It came five years later and they quickly realized this might not be the best neighbor.

Their plight isn't unique, especially in states like Florida, California, and Nevada, where many new communities -- both high-end and more modest -- are built around golf courses. There are more than 2,941 golf courses built in real estate developments in the United States, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Some clubs might be willing to work with surrounding homeowners to find ways to protect against recreational golfers and their wayward golf balls. The Miami Shores Country Club in Miami Beach, FL moved its driving range a few years ago. One home was the landing point for long shots, says General Manager Alberto Pozzi. But even after the redesign, the homeowner still has a net stretched across a portion of his backyard to catch any wayward golf balls that may come his way.

The Miami Shores' golf course, built in the 1930's, predated the surrounding homes which were built in the 1950s. But if, like the Abbotts, you're buying a home next to empty land, ask about zoning. You don't want to find out after you've moved in that the property next door is slated for a golf course, or perhaps worse yet, a shopping mall.

Claims for broken windows and smashed garden sculptures aren't much of a concern for insurance companies, says Jeff Weiner, a Coral Gables, Fla., insurance agent. Repair costs are usually a homeowner's deductible of $500 or $1,000.

Risk isn't the only deterrent to having a golf course be an extension of your backyard. There's also a loss of privacy -- unless you like having dozens of golf carts, loaded with players and clubs, whiz by your patio as you're enjoying your morning coffee and newspaper.

"On a few holes, you don't dare look to the left or right when you're in the tee box, otherwise you're staring in someone's backyard," says Alex Soto, a Miami insurance agent and a member of the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables. Soto says he once broke a window with one of his shots. Lucky for him, the homeowner was a friend and he just paid for the repair.

The proximity of homes so close to the fairways can cut both ways. Nothing can break a player's concentration like the sound of a family splashing in their pool some 20 feet away.

One country club general manager in Pompano Beach, Fl, admits to living on a golf course, but also says he didn't let his kids play in the backyard when they were small.

"If you want the view, you have to accept the risks," he said.

Moral of the story: buyer beware.

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