Golf buggy accidents are one of the key health and safety blackspots for many a golf club. Sometimes, the club is not at fault, as in the case of footballer John Hartson, who received serious head injuries after his buggy driver pressed the accelerator and not the brake and ploughed downhill, hitting a tree at 25mph. But having said that, clubs do need to watch who is at the wheel and do their utmost to ensure they have a right to be there.

In an increasingly litigious world, it pays for golf clubs to cover all bases when it comes to buggies.  If an incident involving poor driving behaviour should occur, the investigation may come back to bite the club, as well as the person at the wheel.

For instance, the question “did the club ensure the driver was competent to drive the buggy?” could be raised.  How often do you actually check the paperwork of those leaping into your course buggies?  Do you ever, in fact, check that they have insurance? How would you fare when answering this question?

Then there is maintenance.  Are all your golf buggies maintained at regular intervals? What are they?   How often are the brakes examined? Do you regularly check the tyre pressures? Do you ask to see the maintenance logs of any members who have their own buggies operating on the course?

Training members in the use of a buggy and ensuring they have sufficient signage on the course to keep them away from dangerous areas is also key.

If you have a course in which ground conditions can be vastly different from day to day, one overall risk assessment may be inadequate for your golf buggy governance and you may need to have a daily review, painful as that may be.  However, not addressing parts of the course in which buggies struggle to tackle the terrain, particularly under certain conditions, could be another way in which you are deemed culpable. 

There is also the issue of insurance to consider.  If you own the buggies that are operated on your course, who benefits from the indemnity on that insurance, if there is an incident?   This needs to be checked out.

Rules concerning the use of golf buggies really are something that should be written into your club handbook and policies for their maintenance and control need to be developed.  Whilst doing this, you may wish to consider whether or not to stress that the use of buggies should be restricted, insisting that you require members to walk the course, unless there is good reason why this should not happen.  By doing this, you could significantly reduce your buggy-related risk and keep many members safe from what is often themselves and their own driving behaviour.