If you're a buyer looking at houses or condos that are located near or on a golf course, don't get too enamored of that view until you see how the homeowner's association handles golf ball damage. Living on a golf course, or at the edge of one, provides residents with panoramic views that are also usually quiet. But flying golf balls made by people with really bad aim can destroy property, including windows. You do have options when it comes to protecting your home, but whatever you do must be in line with what the homeowners' association will allow. Before you buy on a course, be sure you know what the HOA will let you do. If you don't check, you could end up losing your homeowner's insurance, or worse, your home.
A Real Risk
Golf balls are like any flying sports ball: They seem to consciously seek out any and all glass that you have on your property. They don't really do that, but it does seem like it because people living near or on courses often end up with broken windows. So you know you need protection for yourself and your property.
Some golf courses already have nets strung around them; the nets don't provide such a pretty view, but they do catch a lot of golf balls before the balls make it onto residential property. However, if the house or condo you want is on a course without netting, you might be able to install some yourself in front of your own home. If that's not possible, impact-resistant window glass may be your next best option. The windows are designed to not shatter into tiny, sharp shards if a ball hits them. These windows use a type of hard plastic in place of glass, or combined with glass, to create a barrier.
Some HOAs are so determined to have a uniform look that they are willing to sacrifice a lot of window glass. In other words, you might not have any options in that particular housing development. If it turned out your home was in the bad-golfer line of fire, you'd have to be prepared to clean up and replace a lot of glass, which can get expensive over time if you have to replace window after window. You might think that increasing the amount of homeowner's insurance would save you financially, but if you file too many claims -- especially for issues that are technically preventable on your end -- your insurance company could drop you because of the increased risk you present.
Luckily, though, there are many HOAs that do understand how unsafe it can be to live with the risk of being hit with a golf ball or shattered glass, and they will allow homeowners to modify property if the homeowners consult with the board first. Keep in mind that modifications like better windows must meet local safety codes.
Going Too Far
Some impact-resistant windows are more like permanent shields that will not open. These can be appropriate in some circumstances, such as for smaller glass panes that are there for show but aren't supposed to open. But installing immovable, non-opening, unbreakable windows in place of regular windows can be a major safety hazard because you can't get out if the door to that room is blocked. In fact, that was the reason a homeowner in Florida was fined by his HOA. The "Palm Beach Daily News" reported in 2013 that a resident installed non-opening, shatter-resistant windows, which violated fire safety codes. He amassed so many fines that he finally requested to demolish his house, rather than spend money on modifications that wouldn't improve it.
Rather than getting into a similar situation yourself, check with the HOAs in the neighborhoods you're considering to see what they provide and what they allow homeowners and condo-owners to do before you actually buy property. If you have any questions about how impact-resistant windows work, contact a window seller such as Storm Shield LLC that specializes in shatter-resistant glass and plastic. The seller can show you several designs, many of which should match the styles used in homes in the area.