Hole-in-one and other odd insurance policies

hole-in-one insuranceAs someone who doesn't golf much and has never hit a hole-in-one, no matter how good the odds, I don't expect I'll ever need hole-in-one insurance. But some people must, because there's a market for it, among other types of odd insurance.

Golfers traditionally buy a round of drinks at the golf course bar after hitting a hole-in-one, and some bars have a hole-in-one jar for golfers to make occasional donations to and cover any future holes-in-one they might sink.

TheNew York Times reports that at the Lake Merced Golf Club outside San Francisco, every member automatically pays a small amount of dues into a fund that covers about $250 worth of celebratory drinks. At the Kitsap Golf and Country Club in Bremerton, Wash., members pay $10 annually and then get a $100 pro shop credit and $100 food and beverage credit if they hit a hole-in-one.

The Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation in Aiken, S.C., allows golf club members to pay $10 to sign up for the "Hole-in-One Insurance program," and will cover the costs of buying drinks for whoever is at the bar. When the fund drops below $200, all program members are billed $5 to replenish it.

For the many hole-in-one charity tournaments around the country, the National Hole-In-One Association sells insurance to cover the prize money if a lucky golfer wins. The company also sells a few exhibitions, such as one abut eight years ago in Hyde Park in England, where Tiger Woods had two shots to make a hole-in-one for £2 million, said Doug Burkert, president of the National Hole-In-One Association. Woods didn't sink either shot.

The South Florida SPCA has held such fundraisers for about 10 years to raise money to help local horses, paying $200 for the insurance in case someone sinks one shot, said Roy Pressman, the group's treasurer. The May 7 event this year pays $10,000 to get a hole-in-one on a par three, 146-yard hole.

"We've never had a hole-in-one. It's a very rare thing," Pressman told WalletPop in a telephone interview.

Individual insurance is popular in Japan and the United Kingdom to cover bar tabs, Burkert said, but not so much in the United States where there are different expectations.

"In the U.K. everyone is expecting you to buy a round of drinks, and if you're in the U.S. everyone's hoping you're going to buy a round of drinks," he said, adding that bar tabs can reach $500.

The odds of winning by an amateur golfer at an average hole-in-one tournament, on an average 165-yard hole, are one in 12,0000, said Burkert, who has never hit a hole-in-one but has hit a few eagles on par 4 holes.

Odd insurance claims are common, particularly when they involve animals, but most of the odd insurance policies I found online are in Europe. There's the computer gamer who insured his fingers, various other body parts that have been insured, and alien abduction insurance.

Unlike kidnap and ransom insurance, which you wouldn't want to file a claim for, hole-in-one insurance is one claim that insurance holders would be thrilled to claim. A free round of drinks is one of the best insurance settlements you'll ever get.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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