- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

Owning a home overlooking a golf course can be a pretty nice deal for those who want a great view and a terrific resale value.

But it's not so nice when golf balls bombard your house and smash through windows.

Sometimes it's so bad that Rod and Virginia Speer, whose house abuts Pinecrest Golf Course in Annandale, Va., don't let their friends' children play in their yard without helmets.

"You can hear the balls hit the siding [of the house] or the deck once in a while," Mrs. Speer said as she stood on her deck, which is covered by a net. "Sometimes we'll come out and have dinner on our deck and we'll find a couple of golf balls lying around."

So the Speers and others who live along the nine-hole course off Little River Turnpike can sympathize with W.B. Harper, of Chesapeake, Va., who says he is so sick of being pelted with errant golf balls from nearby Chesapeake Golf Club that he is asking a judge to shut down the 15th hole there.

Wayward shots have hit Mr. Harper three times, broken two car windshields and more than 45 windows at his home, and caused $28,750 in damage to his tile roof, according to his lawsuit.

"I don't have a problem with an occasional broken window or two a year, but this is out of control," Mr. Harper said. Mr. Harper filed a lawsuit Oct. 6 against the two companies that own and run the course, National Golf Operating Partnership and American Golf Corp. A hearing is set for Nov. 1 in Chesapeake Circuit Court.

According to his lawsuit, Mr. Harper has lived in the Las Gaviotas subdivision since 1991. He claims that as many as 15 out of every 100 golfers who play the 15th hole hit a ball onto his property, and golfers often wander onto his property without permission.

Mr. Harper's attorney, F. Sullivan Callahan, said his client would like to see the course changed to keep errant shots off his property. Mr. Harper filed the lawsuit after he contacted club management several times to ask for action and compensation for damage to his house, according to court papers.

Andy Weissinger, the Chesapeake course's general manager, has declined to comment and referred all questions to the legal department at American Golf Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif.

Closer to home, the Speers said they have had their share of golf-ball-related accidents on their property since they moved into their home on Gretna Green Way nearly five years ago.

In the first six months, they said, golf balls came through a skylight in their living room, a bay window in the kitchen and a sunroof in Mr. Speer's car parked in the couple's driveway. Total damage was estimated at $550, most of which was covered by insurance, Mr. Speer said.

"We got pretty nervous at that point," Mrs. Speer said. "We didn't know what we would have done if it continued. But luckily we haven't had any problems since."

Officials at the Pinecrest Golf Course agreed.

"We haven't had any complaints in a long, long time," one manager, who didn't want to be identified, said yesterday.

Golf course officials have placed nets between the course and the subdivision to stop wayward balls from pelting the houses.

Still, there are days when the Speers will walk into their back yard or onto their net-covered deck and find a golf ball or two.

Since they moved into the home, Mr. Speer has collected hundreds of golf balls. They almost fill a three-gallon bucket.

Sometimes, Mr. Speer will place the balls on a flower bed in front of his home, to replace the white garden stones he uses to keep weeds from growing.

Despite the damage, the Speers said they enjoy living next to a golf course and don't even think about moving.

"You've got a beautiful view, and it's very peaceful here," Mr. Speer said.

Mrs. Speer agrees.

"It's having the freedom of having a countrylike setting and it's maintenance-free," she said.

Mr. Harper's lawsuit is not the first for the Chesapeake Golf Club. Nine years ago, when the course was known as Seven Springs Golf Course, a couple won a similar lawsuit against the former owner. As a result, Video Inc. and Jerbam Inc. were forced to reconfigure the eighth hole, according to court records.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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