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

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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.


Rob Harris



By: Rob Harris

Somehow I missed this jewel of a story, published last month in South Africa’s Estland and Midlands News about an elderly golfer who claims that he has been wrongfully deprived of victory in his club’s “Monthly Mug” tournament:

“An 81-year-old golfer has labelled the club’s committee biased, especially when it comes to awarding senior members prizes. Speaking out against the golf results published in the Estcourt News on August 12, the golfer says that the results were incorrect, explaining that he should’ve taken first place for that competition, he substantiated that it was not the first time that the reported results were incorrect.

“We asked one of the people in charge about how the scores work and he told us to play on our handicap. We also go by the computer at the club, which we were instructed to do. If this is the case, then I was misled because we were told to play on the handicap but my score was cut,” explained the resident.

Adamant that the winners names and scores of the August 6 monthly mug was not a true reflection, the resident challenged the golf club committee to explain themselves via the media.

Competition Secretary George van Niekerk explained that senior players who played off the ladies tee box immediately forfeited four shots off their score. This, he said, was a directive from the Natal Golfer’s Union, which was explained to all club members.

He has requested a meeting with the golfer in order to explain the rules but this was refused by the golfer, who wanted a response via the Estcourt News.


By: Rob Harris

We have discussed on multiple occasions the lawsuit brought against the prominent and historic Quaker Ridge Golf Club by an adjoining neighbor claiming trespass and nuisance for an influx of golf balls into his yard. Even though his home was built decades after the establishment of the club, a New York appellate court held that the neighbor was entitled to relief.

The litigation returned to the trial court for an adjudication of the damages to which the neighbors were entitled. Although the court’s decision is not yet availale online, it has been summarized at length in an article on lohud.com.

As reported:

Both the Behars and the club made attempts to remedy the issue. The Behars spent about $150,000 in 2011 to plant 45-foot trees on their property, said attorney Julius Cohn, who represented the family. In 2015, the club spent nearly $1 million on modifications to the hole No. 2, including moving the tee box and trees to block off the Behar yard, according to club president Marc Friedman. A 40-foot net was also erected on the course’s property in 2010.

The club stationed an employee at the second hole for 118 days in 2015 to secure an accurate count of ball incursions on the Behar property; the count found 40 balls may have entered the yard, which equates to about one ball every three days…

The Behars hired valuation expert Daniel Sciannameo to assess temporary damages, whose claims were declared ”exaggerated, hyperbolic, and unreliable” by Judge Charles Wood.

“Both at trial and in his report, Sciannameo made wild, sweeping conclusions without any basis,” Wood said in his decision.

A letter sent to Quaker Ridge club members said the Behars were seeking in excess of $3.3 million for punitive damages. Wood’s Oct. 4 ruling awarded the plaintiffs $7,323.75.

“It should not be unexpected that any house abutting a golf course, including the Behar’s house, would from time to time, receive three, four, five, or more balls on a given particular day of poor swings, and that there could be no liability on the part of a golf course for trespass, nuisance or concomitant damages,” Wood said.

Cohn said the Behars “vehemently disagree with the court’s decision” and that the family plans to appeal.



By: Rob Harris

Whether Integrity Golf Company, LLC will be deserving of its name may depend on the outcome of a lawsuit filed against it by the owners of Tennessee’s Country Club of Bristol.

Interity assumed the management of the club in July 2015, announcing its arrival with a press release declaring:

Integrity Golf Company, one of the leading golf course operators in the world, is pleased to announce the company is now overseeing golf operations at Country Club of Bristol here in northeastern Tennessee.

The long-term lease agreement, effective July 1, helps broaden Integrity Golf’s footprint in Tennessee and represents a new era for this historic property that dates to 1894. Earlier in the week, the club was acquired by Bristol Preservation LLC, a local TriCities Tennessee group controlled by well-known local businessmen Mitch Walters and Roscoe Bowman. Longtime real estate professional Tim Carter also is part of Bristol Preservation LLC.

“The whole idea behind this effort is to preserve this golf course and keep Tennessee’s oldest club alive,” says Walters, whose Friendship Family of Dealerships is one of the leading automotive companies in the Southeast. “We didn’t want it closed and turned into a major development because you can never build it back once that happens. Integrity Golf gives us the opportunity to do that.

Barely a year later, Integrity was gone, reported to have “abruptly walked out on the 10-year lease.”

The club owners have now filed suit against Integrity issuing a terse statement“While regrettable, this filing became necessary due to events and actions over which Bristol Preservation, LLC had no control, … We do not expect to make any further comments about the lawsuit at the present time.”

By: Rob Harris

Three years ago, we wrote about the jury verdict rendered against the former Spokane Country Club, finding it liable for gender discrimination by providing men premium tee-times on Wednesdays and Saturdays while limiting women’s play to Tuesdays and Thursdays. The verdict led the club to file for  bankruptcy protection.

As the Seattle Times reports, the club subsequently was sold to the Kalispel Indian Tribe, which operates it as a semi-private facility.

In describing the club’s legal transition, the Seattle Times explains that the jury verdict followed a “ruling made by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins in 2011″:

She ruled the club was not exempt from public-accommodation provisions of state anti-discrimination laws. Usually, private-membership clubs are exempt from these laws on grounds of preserving rights of privacy and freedom of association.

In other words, the private club had to operate as if it were a public business and be vigilant not to offend anyone or face legal consequences. Suddenly, a club policy such as designating a block of tee times for one gender could make it a legal target on grounds of discrimination.

In making the ruling, the judge cited examples of how the club had been operating in some ways as a public business to boost revenue. She noted the ease of gaining membership, that nonmembers could rent the club for weddings and other occasions, that the general public could shop in the pro shop and that college golf teams used the course.

The article provides interesting insight into what has followed–on the one hand, private clubs taking steps to ensure they can never be accused of operating a public facility, and, on the other hand, the resurgence of Spokane Country Club/Kalispel Golf and Country Club under its new ownership.

By: Rob Harris

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to write about a golf-related opinion authored by a judge named Lee Jantzen. While Judge Jantzen, unlike his PGA Tour namesake, may not have won the U.S. Open even once, much less twice, his recent decision on behalf of the Arizona Court of Appeals came out squarely in favor of pro-golf interests.

In City Center Executive Plaza, LLC v. The Refuge Community Association, Inc., developers purchased an Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course with plans to substantially reduce the size of the course and to “put in a permanent pavilion tent (“the Event Tent”) near the golf course’s clubhouse to host public events and build a high-end motor coach or RV Park.”

The course was surrounded by a gated residential community known as The Refuge at Lake Havasu, and a number of home owners contended that various legal documents and doctrines prevented developers from using the Palmer course to carry out their dream development.

The Arizona Court of Appeals, under the authorship of Judge Jantzen, in an opinion released just three days before Arnie’s death, agreed, refusing to permit this sacrilege to occur.

The developers had argued that ”the only notice they had of an alleged golf-only restriction when they purchased the property was the presence of the original championship golf course covering the property.” Duh…. that should be a clue.

As Judge Jantzen noted, before “purchasing the golf course property, [the developers] had a full opportunity to conduct due diligence. That diligence, according to the court, would have led to the discovery of ample evidence indicating the legal rights of home owners in the community to the continued use of the property for golf-related purposes.


By: Rob Harris

All these months, we’ve been discussing the wrong fence. Whatever may be the issues with our southern border, the important fence debate is the one playing out in the California desert.

Apparently, the endangered Peninsular Ranges population of bighorn sheep prefer the golf courses of La Quinta to their natural Santa Roses Mountain habitat. They regularly wander down and graze on the vegetation planted and maintained for the country club and tourist crowd. Choice targets are PGA West, Lake Cahuilla, The Quarry, Tradition Golf Club and SilverRock Resort Golf Club.

These choice destinations have caused less than desirable results for the sheep. As reported, “in the past four years, four sheep have drowned in a canal, one died from eating poisonous oleander, one was hit by a car and at least six others died of disease.”

Conservation groups have become fence advocates, and have notified state, federal and local agencies that they plan to commence litigation if they do not proceed to erect a fence. No word on whether they intend to make the sheep pay for the fence.

Read here for the full story.


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.

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