They weigh less than two ounces apiece, but these little devils pack a wallop. And they're invading Granada Hills.
But when someone tried to do something about them, there was an even greater outcry.
The greatest suburban threat since crabgrass? Errant golf balls.
And the solution creating even more problems? A 70-foot fence erected to stop them from raining down on back yards, cars, houses and swimming pools, leaving a trail of dented hoods and broken windows.
"It was a war zone--we were afraid to sit in our own back yards," said Jioia Nelson, whose house overlooks Knollwood Golf Course off Balboa Boulevard north of Rinaldi Street.
But the fence, made up of black netting stretched between 22 telephone poles, is even worse, residents say.
"It's screwing up our view royally," said Carol Howard, who has lived in the 250-unit housing tract for 27 years.
So far, no one has been injured by the rock-hard plastic balls, but the fence is the only way to guarantee residents' protection, Los Angeles County officials say. The county owns the 18-hole golf course and driving range and has leased it to American Golf Corp. for the past two years, said Peter Whittingham, the deputy in charge of parks and recreation for Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
The course is also among the most financially successful of the county's 20 courses, taking in a minimum of $726,000 annually or a percentage of the greens fees, whichever is higher.
"The fence is the only way to protect our liability," said Whittingham, who estimated it cost American Golf more than $20,000 to erect. "I really don't see any other option."
Nelson and her husband sued American Golf after the company refused to reimburse them for damaged cars and broken windows. A letter from the company dated Aug. 17, 1992, states: "Please be advised that it is the golfer who hits an errant ball who is responsible for any resulting damage, and attempts should be made to locate the responsible party."
Needless to say, the Nelsons and their neighbors never successfully located anyone who admitted slicing a ball into the windshield of a 1987 Acura. The lawsuit is pending.
Residents, who say they had lived near the course in harmony for years, blame the problem on the type of golf ball American Golf uses, and they want the company to switch to a ball with a shorter range.
"We used to have maybe one golf ball a month sail into our yard before they took over the course," Nelson said. "These new balls are faster and more furious." She pointed toward the more than 1,500 balls she has collected in the past year and a half.
Company officials declined to comment. But Whittingham said the problem arose mainly because more golfers use the range, not because of the type of ball.
"Even if that was the case, the fence is the only guarantee of everybody's safety," he said.