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I have discovered that there is no shortage of interesting, sometimes humorous and occasionally outright quirky legal disputes that have a golf connection. Please enjoy

I also invite you to join the Golf Dispute Resolution Linked In group, which has more than 2000 members.

We also recently established a Twitter account (@golfdisputes). All twitterers are welcome to follow.

Please don’t hesitate to share ideas for either the blog or the Linked In group.

By way of background, I am an attorney who serves as general counsel to a financial services company.  I also frequently serve as a mediator and arbitrator. And, of course,  I enjoy golf, most often at the Yale Golf Course. You can learn more about my experience here.

Now, for the required disclaimer, so I can remain in the good graces of the legal ethics powers-that-be:  This website, which may constitute Attorney Advertising in some jurisdictions, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Best,

Rob Harris
rharris@golfdisputeresolution.com
914-482-2448

 

 

By: Rob Harris

I wrote last week about how Lee Westwood bailed on an English golf academy that used his name for promotion, after the academy brought collection actions against students who had not paid tuition.  I noted at the time that the school’s actions may have been penny wise and pound foolish:

Now, left with adverse publicity and no star namesake (the “Karl Morris Golf School” doesn’t cut it), the school, even if it prevails in the litigation, will be suffering more than the loss of a few dollars in tuition. Be careful what you ask for.

Apparently, the other (golf) show has dropped. Mr. Morris also runs a golf school in Antrim, Northern Ireland.  Mr. Morris  promoted this school as the Darren Clarke Golf School. No more.

According to published reports, while “[not] aware of any issues or concerns regarding the Darren Clarke Golf School specifically, Darren has served notice to terminate the relevant licence arrangement.” Seems like both Mr. Westwood and Mr. Clarke don’t want their names, reputations and brands tarnished.

Lesson to be learned, as noted last week: “be careful what you ask for.” Good luck, Mr. Morris

By: Rob Harris

When a new owner bought the Palleg Golf Club. the decision was made to give the club a new name. The choice? Celtic Minor….

Why? Ask Celtic Manor.… it will suggest the name change was to trade off the  brand of the club that has hosted the Ryder Cup and sports three golf courses and three hotels.

Legal action has been threatened. Let’s see what happens.

 

By: Rob Harris

California has a statute that distinguishes between the theft of property valued at less than $950 dollars. If taken from a commercial establishment, the act constitutes shoplifting (a misdemeanor); if taken from a private facility or home, the thief can be charged with second degree burglary (a felony).

This statute was of interest to Jon Holm, who found himself sentenced for felonious burglary, until the California Court of Appeals determined that shoplifting was the crime-du-jour.

And why is this of relevance to golf?

Well, Mr. Holm’s misdeeds occurred at the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club, a private country club where he was formerly a member. Ouch.

From the club, he absconded with “a television, valued at $662.23, and three boxes of golf balls, valued at $50 each.”

The Court of Appeals noted that “the club is open to members and their guests, but not to the general public. The club’s facilities include a pro shop, two restaurants, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a golf course and banquet facilities. The club also displays art work by local artists, which members and their guests may purchase. Members of the general public, however, can rent the banquet facilities.

According to the trial court, Mr. Holm was a burglar, plain and simple. As the judge note, “this is not a commercial establishment, in my opinion, within the meaning of Prop 47. This is a private club that you have to be a member. Mr. Holm, according to the presentence report, was not a member of the club at the time that he was actually expelled in 2011, so he’s not a member…”

Good thing for Mr. Holm that there are appellate courts, because the California appellate tribunal saw things differently than the trial judge:

“[W]e conclude the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club is an establishment ‘primarily engaged in the sale of goods and services.’ The fact most of these are sold to a subset of the general public—namely individual club members and their guests—does not change the commercial nature of the establishment. Furthermore, the club sells some of its goods and services, namely its banquet space and services, to the general public.”

So, good news for Mr. Holm, as he went from being a convicted burglar to a convicted shoplifter. Either way, however, it’s doubtful that Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club will be readmitting him any time soon.

By: Rob Harris

As I wrote a few months ago, “ovver the years, we’ve had several opportunities to discuss ‘holes-in-one that weren’t,’ at least in terms of the rules governing prize giveaways at charity events.”

“There was Alan Ross, who, after making an ace, learned the prize wasn’t the $66,000 car parked at the hole, but rather a $25,000 gift certificate. There was Troy Pessig, who had an unfortunate encounter with a hole-in-one insurer who refused to pony up, only to be charged with a felony. There were Don DiMartino and Donald Beirmann, each of whom who carded a hole-in-one, only to learn that the hole was shorter than the length required on the insurance policy covering the event.”

Well, according to an article in the Daily News, Messrs. DiMartino and Beirmann can commisserate with Martin Greenberg, who reportedly also got screwed, sorry, I mean lost a big payday,when the hole he aced turned out to be shorter than the required 150 yards.

The alleged evil villain in the Greenberg story is one Donald J. Trump, whose Trump National Golf Club allegedly placed the tee markers intentionally so the hole would be too short.

And then, when it was time to pony up settlement money, Trump caused the payment to come from his foundation. Ouch.

Read more here, about our potential next president.

By: Rob Harris

The Lee Westwood Golf School in Cheshire, England likely soon will be looking for a new name, as its namesake has announced that he is “cutting his links” to the school.

The announcement accompanies news of litigation brought by the school to collect unpaid tuition from families whose children exited the pricey program (£15,000 annual tuition and accommodation) before its completion.

Perhaps not having thought through the ramifications of its actions, the families have filed counterclaims against the school, alleging deficiencies in the school’s program and the overnight supervision provided to its students.

When the British press inquired about these claims, the school’s founder Karl Morris opted for silence, stating that “we are unable to comment… as these matters relate to the on-going legal proceedings for unpaid school fees.”

Now, left with adverse publicity and no star namesake (the “Karl Morris Golf School” doesn’t cut it), the school, even if it prevails in the litigation, will be suffering more than the loss of a few dollars in tuition. Be careful what you ask for.

By: Rob Harris

I have been writing about Vijay Singh’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour since shortly after it was filed. On May 8, 2013, after expressing my opinion that Vijay’s legal claims were weak, I aasked, “if Singh’s legal claims are dubious, then why start a lawsuit?” I offered the following possible explanations:

“1. My legal analysis is wrong and Singh has a strong case. (I’m confident that’s what his lawyers will say.)

“2. Even though the claims are weak, litigation is Legal Lotto and “you can’t win if you don’t play.” (Doesn’t seem to fit Vijay’s image. And he will do nothing to help himself by prolonging a crusade against the organization that feeds him.)

“3. He’s angry and acting emotionally. (Understandable, but he’s surrounded by well paid talent who think rationally.)

“4. He wants a public settlement in which the Tour acknowledges it was wrong, in order to be perceived as a victim rather than an ageing player who skirted the line by using–you must be kidding–deer antler spray. BINGO.

I predicted that “protracted litigation will hurt both the Tour and Singh. The case will settle in short order. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.”

Wrong I was. Three years later, the case is getting closer to trial, although I remain convinced that it will settle before the first witness is called.

To this point, there’s a great article in  Golf WRX about the current state of the lawsuit. It begins this way:

“There’s a saying lawyers like to use when talking to a client about whether it’s worth litigating a case, and in its various forms it goes something like this:

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BE CAREFUL BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO WRESTLE WITH A PIG. BECAUSE ONLY TWO THINGS ARE GUARANTEED TO HAPPEN: YOU GET DIRTY AND THE PIG LIKES IT.

“Never has that been truer than in the case of Singh v. PGA Tour. A recent ruling by the trial judge has blown the case wide open. The judge has issued an order that documents exchanged by the parties are no longer confidential and no longer have to be redacted. That means all documents filed in court are open record and the media will now have full access, which could be a game changer that will test the PGA Tour’s resolve to continue its defense against Singh.”

As the article posits, correctly in my opinion,

“If the case gets to trial, there is a very real chance it turns ugly. Singh’s lawyer will put Tim Finchem on the stand and grill him over the PGA Tour’s policies and why they treated Singh differently. Finchem will have to respond and will have to tell the truth. It’s very possible there is testimony regarding other players suspensions and why they were treated differently than Singh…

“Singh doesn’t have those issues. The PGA Tour already aired his dirty laundry. The question now is, how much are they about to pay for it?”


 

By: Rob Harris

Columbus, Ohio’s Golf Dome–more formally known as Four Seasons Golf & Fitness Center–faces an uncertain future, as the city eyes beauty– otherwise known as development $$–instead of an eyesore. No matter that the dome has enabled golfers and instructors–including staff from the Columbus Country Club across the street–to work on their games during Ohio’s, shall we say, spotty winter weather.

Faced with a landlord who wants it to exit, Four Seasons has asserted leasehold extension rights and tried to back it up with lawsuits against the city.

Sounds like a game of run out the clock, and, at some point, golfers teeing off of #1 at Columbus Country Club will need a new site line–”aim at the big pillow” will no longer work.

By: Rob Harris

Pensacola’s Osceola Golf Course promises “a challenging 18 hole course that you’re sure to enjoy and remember.”

I’m not sure that Drew Glover enjoyed his round, but he certainly will remember, accorrding to an article published in golf.com.

Vicki Meloy was part of a foursome that approached soldier Drew Glover to express dissatisfaction with the volume of the on course music being played by Glover and his playing companion. According to Glover, the Meloy foursome injected racial slurs into their commentary. Whatever the mix of components, the disagreement turned physical.

According to Meloy, she decided to play the role of peacemaker, and approached in her golf cart, accidentally sliding into Glover when the brakes failed, “ although officers at the scene didn’t see any sign of slide marks on the grass.”

What apparently is less in dispute is that Glover fractured his tibia and fibula and that Meloy has been charged with aggravated assault.

By: Rob Harris

Perhaps my chickens are coming home to roost. Having written this blog for 5+ years, I find myself an unwitting participant in an emerging golf dispute that threatens my golf playing equilibrium.

I have been fortunate to play at the Yale golf course for many years. Yale, a product of Charles Blair MacDonald and Seth Raynor, is viewed by many as one of the best classic courses in America. Carved from a 750 acre land grant to the university almost 100 years ago, its rolling topography, large greens, massive bunkers, provide a four hour experience with no houses or cars to be seen. Democratic with a small “d”, a chairman of an academic department and a dispatcher in the facilities group can expect to be treated the same.

A couple of miles from Yale lies the former Woodbridge Country Club, renamed as the Country Club of Woodbridge after the town was effectively required to acquire the course seven years ago when the privately owned club went bankrupt. Even with outsourced management, the town has struggled with an unprofitable facility, and has explored the various options clubs around the country have considered, e.g. real estate developing, recreation lands, keeping 9 holes of the course.

Enter Roland Betts, college buddy of George W. Bush, developer of New York’s Chelsea Piers andformer Senior Fellow of the Yale Corporation.

Betts has put forth a proposal that would dramatically alter the Yale golf experience. He seeks to lease the Yale course, acquire the Country Club of Woodbridge, and build a hotel, turning the area into a golf destination. Plans call for Gil Hanse to take on the Woodbridge facility to “transform existing course, parking and clubhouse areas to create a new design.” Hanse would also”restore and renovate [Yale] to its full potential.”

The anxiety-of-the-unknown already is taking hold. Public disclosures and surrounding rumors have Yale being taken from its current membership, student and faculty constituencies and turned over to outside destination visitors willing to pay big bucks to play the course. Loyal and long serving pro shop and grounds staff worry about the loss of their jobs.

Betts still needs to jump through hoops–approval by Woodbridge, by the Yale corporation, and potential legal challenges. He will face issues surrounding the right of access to the course by university students, faculty members, and members who paid initiation fees. The unions to whom Yale employees belong will have a voice.

This emerging dispute will provide a fertile vehicle for dialogue and potentially more formal mediation.

My personal interests aside, it will be interesting to watch it unfold.

 

 

Here’s one of the occasional stories I just quote in its entirety.

Thanks to kutv.com:

A man was taken to Utah County Jail Saturday night after a fight broke out among golfers in Payson.

According to Lieutenant Bill Wright with Payson Police, around 8:20 p.m. Saturday night a group of four golfers were playing ahead of a 61-year-old Lee Johnson and his his wife. The man and woman thought that the group was going too slow and wanted to play through, but the group did not want them too.

Wright says a fight broke out and the club house was called out and resolved the dispute.

Around the ninth hole, Johnson and his wife caught up with part of the group and thought they would be allowed to play through, but again the group refused.

Johnson then pulled a pocket knife and stabbed one person, Wright said. He was wrestled to the ground by the other golfer from the group.

According to Wright, one man received a small cut. Wright said the victim was sent to Mountain View hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Johnson was taken to the Utah County Jail.

Authorities say Johnson’s wife was not involved with the stabbing and was not arrested.

 

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