One of GM Cruise’s self-driving cars in SF.
Photo: GM

California has the most stringent regulations for self-driving cars in the U.S., including a strict mandate for companies to file a “traffic collision” report involving any autonomous car. This, it turns out, encompasses even when a golf ball strikes a robot-operated car.

GM Cruise, the autonomous driving unit of General Motors, had to submit a report on June 22, after one of its self-driving Bolts suffered minor damage at the hands of a golf ball.

According to the report:

A Cruise autonomous vehicle (“Cruise AV”), operating in autonomous mode, was traveling westbound on El Camino Del Mar between 32nd Ave and Legion of Honor Drive. The Cruise AV was struck by a golf ball from a nearby golf course causing damage to the Cruise AV’s front driver windshield. There were no injuries and police were not called.

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Indeed, the Lincoln Park Golf Course is situated to the south along this stretch of El Camino Del Mar, tucked away in the northwest section of San Francisco.

Around since 1902, it was the city’s first municipal golf course, and it has operated with an 18-hole layout for more than a century. The San Francisco parks department says it provides one of the “most spectacular” views of the Golden Gate Bridge while you play. Nice.

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But what I want to know is where this golf ball originated. What sorry mope mucked up his drive so bad that it veered off the course and onto El Camino Del Mar, where it met the windshield of a Chevy Bolt?

Here’s a layout of Lincoln Park:

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First, this is a municipal course that’s likely to attract more amateurs than a polished country club. At roughly 5,000 yards in total, it’s safe to qualify Lincoln Park as an executive course—shorter than your standard fare, but not so short it’s all par 3s. It’s a way to get a quick round in over lunch. Given the aforementioned, I’m going to assume a party with a late Friday morning tee time—the collision reportedly happened around 1 p.m.—is at least somewhat capable of playing the sport.

So, right off the bat, I think you can safely rule out the 5th. It sits west of Legion Drive, and it would require our golfer not only slicing it sharply, but also blowing way the fuck past the green. If this is the case, this person should retire from golf.

Maybe our golfer approached the final teebox on the 18th and had such a piss-fucking-poor day that they turned around and just teed off in the direction of the road. But, for purposes of this very necessary exercise, I’m ruling this out, too.

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That leaves holes 15-17. Now, 17's fairway sits off to the left a tad, and, based on the course design above, there’s no shrub on that side either. Surely you’d tee up in a direction facing somewhat away from El Camino. The Bolt was traveling westbound, so, sure, someone could slice their drive hard right and smash into a windshield, but, again, I’m not persuaded.

That leaves 15 and 16. I think 15's wildly impossible. Approaching the green, you’d have to fuck up so badly by either blowing past the hole purposely, or just being so shitty at golf that our golfer’s drive flew right and then past the entire fairway of the 16th. No fucking way.

Here’s what I believe happened.

Our unknown golfer took a half day Friday to shoot a round with some close pals. June 22 was a sunny day, high around 80. Fine day to golf. Unfortunately, their swing was off, and so by the time they arrived at the 16th, they were ready for this shit to be over with.

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The 16th is handicapped as the fourth hardest hole of the course, which makes sense. A par 3 at 229-239 yards isn’t the easiest par 3 to stomach. So, perhaps, our golfer grabbed too much club, wound up, and swatted a drive that immediately hooked left, over the trees and over El Camino Del Mar, where it then fell onto an unsuspecting Chevy Bolt operating in autonomous mode at the time.

The DMV report doesn’t list any possible suspect golfer in question. I reached out to GM Cruise for comment asking if the Cruise is safe and back at it, and a spokesperson told me, confidently:

Yes :)

I’ll consider this case closed, though. You’re welcome.