A Canadian judge has ruled the “Happy Gilmore” golf swing has “breached the standard of care owed to other players on the course.”
Justice Arthur J. LeBlanc, in his decision, went on to trash an admittedly nontraditional but heretofore legal swing, that’s been a comic staple since it was made famous by the 1996 Adam Sandler film. In fact, an episode of Sport Science recently tested the effectiveness of it (see video clip below).
“I am convinced that the “Happy Gilmore” shot,” wrote Judge Le Blanc in his decision, "would have been less controllable than a normal tee shot, both because it involved a run-up to the ball (rather than an aimed shot from a stationary position) and because the defendant had been drinking throughout the day.”
Let’s put aside for a moment the question of whether the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia is qualified to rule on the quality of a golf swing.
We need to take a closer look at the facts of the case.
In a pre-wedding round of golf, Travis Hayter, was out on the course partying with Alan Bezanson, groom-to-be James (Jamie) Bezanson, and Marvin Weeks. In addition to loading their golf carts with clubs, balls, and tees, they brought along 28 cans of beer, a bottle of tequila, and “some marijuana.” After nine holes, Mr. Hayter, bought more beer.
By this point, Hayter was sloshed enough to be practicing power slides in the golf cart, and “nearly drove into a pond,” according to the court documents.
On the 16th hole, Hayter sliced his tee shot into the woods. He hit a second tee shot, which “dribbled up the fairway.” At that point, his golfing buddies, not surprisingly, started to walk down the fairway toward their respective balls. But Hayter wasn’t done. He teed up a third ball and took a running start before swinging at the ball – your classic Happy Gilmore swing.
The ball struck Alan Bezanson in the wrist.
Some time after the wedding, Bezanson, a woodsman and father of three, sued Hayter for loss of income and damages due to the injury to his wrist. The case made its way through the Canadian judicial system until Justice LeBlanc ordered Hayter to pay $227,500.
One empathizes with the suffering caused by this errant shot, and won't quibble with the decision to award financial compensation. But here's where Judge LeBlanc strayed. He should not have ruled on whether imitating Happy Gilmore is dangerous or not. Rather, the substantive issue here should be whether swinging a golf club while intoxicated during a bachelor party is negligence. According to the court testimony, the defendant’s regular golf swing was no better, arguably, it was worse, than his run-and-gun swing.
The likely near-term result of this ruling? Watch for a parade of sober Happy Gilmore swingers willfully defying the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.