Golf Course Neighbors Getting Shelled Duplex Residents Fear Being Beaned By Woods Wannabes

SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1997

They’re 250 yards away, across a street and shielded by a 40-foot fence.

But residents of four duplexes near the Coeur d’Alene Public Golf Course are being clobbered by a hailstorm of golf balls.

They’ve endured broken windows and dented fenders and dodged the little missiles during barbecues.

“Sometimes, they barely miss my steps, and if I happened to have been there, I could be killed,” said tenant Irene Iverson, 81. “As you step outside you don’t know; you might be conked on the head, and that could be serious.”

One tenant tracks the errant balls, logging the annoying overflights in a notebook and then collecting the little buggers. He picked up 111 last month alone - 1,800 in the last three years.

Another is considering moving. A third now drives the 50 feet to her mailbox rather than risk getting beaned by a Top Flite.

“It’s just getting ridiculous,” said landlord Doug Somers. “It’s getting dangerous.”

It’s not that the problem is new. The balls are coming from the course driving range, as they always have.

But for most of the 11 years since Somers bought the eight rental units, the rain of balls was bearable.

No longer.

“We used to get one or two balls a day on our property,” Somers said. “Now we get 10, 12 or 15 in a day. I was over there yesterday for 15 minutes and picked up 5.”

Last month, he hired an attorney who is demanding the city take action against the course.

Course managers, meanwhile, say there’s little that can be done.

“When you build houses and condos on a driving range, I don’t know what you can expect,” said course golf professional David Lowe.

Somers admits some hazards are to be expected. The course, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was there long before his 25-year-old duplexes.

He also acknowledges course managers have tried to accommodate him.

When Somers’ tenants complain, managers demand golfers use their less powerful irons instead of wood or graphite clubs. They even built a 40-foot fence to block balls from leaving the range.

But it’s no longer enough.

“If you stand up there and stand on the driving range, you wonder how they get the balls over that fence,” Somers said. “But if you stand near my duplex you hear them bouncing down the road.”

Why the sudden hailstorm?

Somers blames technology. New graphite-head clubs like $500 Great Big Bertha or King Cobra can send balls sailing well over 300 yards.

Lowe has a counter-theory: He blames Tiger Woods.

Attendance at the driving range is up 40 percent from last year, and the 20-year-old winner of this year’s Masters Tournament is drawing more kids into the game, Lowe said.

“They’re strong and they’re still developing their swing,” Lowe said.

Most golfers are right-handed, and rookies commonly slice the ball to the right - the direction Somers’ property is from the tee-off spot.

“A lot of it also has to do with the weather,” Lowe said. “‘When the wind blows, it goes left to right, making it even more of a possibility balls will fly that way.”

For the moment, it’s a stalemate.

“There’s going to be balls going over there, no matter what,” Lowe said.

, DataTimes

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