Who’s at Fault? Read the Fine Print to Make Sure You’re Not at Risk

Lawyers questioned whether putting a waiver of liability on the back of a golf cart slip was even valid, let alone aboveboard. The waivers that hold up best in court are written with bold type highlighting the risks to a person, who then has to agree to them by signing, Mr. Wickert said.

“Warnings on the back of tickets aren’t so strong,” he said.

But this can be a hazy area, because Queen’s Harbour is also open to the public. At a private club, such exculpatory language does not exist — and most likely would not be tolerated by members, said Tom Walker, vice president at RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure Insurance.

“If you’re a member, you don’t have anything contractually that you’d sign off on,” he said. “Nor would your guests be involved with that.” A private club might try to mitigate risk with private contractors who work there, however.

Yet there are instances when being on a private course is not protection from liability. To protect yourself, insurers stress the need for excess liability coverage, also known as umbrella policies. Traditionally, these policies pick up coverage where automobile or homeowner policies leave off.

Ross Buchmueller, president and chief executive of Pure Insurance, said his company had settled a claim a few years ago after a client’s golf club slipped from his hands during a swing on a course in Miami and struck a cyclist on an abutting bike route.

The cyclist, of course, was not required to sign a waiver for a bike ride, Mr. Buchmueller said. “He went on a path open to the public — maybe it had signs warning about golfers — but either way, the person got hurt,” he said. His company paid a claim in excess of $100,000 because the golfer had an umbrella policy.

Mr. Mantle said ClubCorp’s waiver had not deterred him from golfing. But he and his golfing buddies make sure to cross it out and write that they do not accept it.

“So far, the people manning the cash registers let me do it,” he said. “My own preference is to take out those terms that release me from liability and indemnifies the club from liability. But as a lawyer, I’ve modified the terms, and they’ve accepted it.”

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