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No Insurance Coverage for Golf Charity's Hole-In-One Contest

By Jeffrey Yano, Esq. on February 14, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A hole-in-one is a rare occurrence in golf. But two together is rarer still. It does happen, however, as Old White Charities, a non-profit, learned the hard way during its hole-in-one contest at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic and Pro-Am golf tournament.

What really sunk the charity is that its insurance claim for the money has recently been denied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hole-In-One Contest

Old White Charities sponsored the hole-in-one contest, promising to pay attending fans $100 for a hole-in-one and $500 for another hole-in-one at the 18th hole. Sounds like a fun promotion to have at a golf tournament, right?

Imagine the excitement when two professional golfers made the shot. The charity paid out $200,000 to happy fans, which isn't a bad way to build some golfing goodwill. Then it turned to its insurers for the money.

Minimum Yardage Policy

Old White's insurance policy required its hole-in-one contest to set a minimum distance of 170 yards. Indeed, the charity's insurance application initially stated a minimum 150 yards distance would be built-in, and that sounds smart. Yet for whatever reason, when the contest was held, the holes-in-one were made from 137 yards.

It's difficult to get money from an insurer when you violate such a clear term of the underlying policy. Granted, courts aren't often fond of insurance companies as litigants. But this is a pretty clear-cut case of "well, the policy says x and you didn't do x, counselor."

That's par for the course in the world of contract law.

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