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 you can access here.

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.


Rob Harris



By: Rob Harris

Although sometimes attributed to Abraham Lincoln, others question the origin of the proverb: “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” My vote for likely candidate is an attorney marketing trade group.

Whatever its origins, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently provided at least temporary relief to a member of The Ridge at Back Brook who initially undertook to represent himself in court proceedings challenging his obligation to pay dues and associated country club costs totaling approximately $87,000, which liability, with finance charges, had by the time of judgment grown to more than $250,000.

The member’s substantive defense apparently was that his dues “were improperly utilized for capital and debt service, contrary to the terms of the membership agreement, which provided it was to be utilized, if at all, exclusively for operational expenses” As the court explained, “Defendant asserted that plaintiff took this course because ;the project was millions of dollars over budget’ even though plaintiff ‘affirmatively advised’ at the contract’s formation that ‘there was no debt and construction was within budget.’”

The trial court, however, refused to entertain the member’s arguments, finding that he failed to present them timely and in accordance with the court’s rules and procedures.

The appellate court, however, showed some empathy. As its opinion states:

We … hold that a pro se litigant is entitled to nothing less than that to which a litigant is entitled when represented by a negligent attorney. That is, … pro se litigants are not entitled to greater rights than litigants who are represented by counsel. But we also [have] recognized…– in concluding that a self-represented litigant was deprived of a meaningful opportunity to be heard due to a lack of understanding of motion practice – that it is ”fundamental that the court system . . . protect the procedural rights of all litigants and to accord procedural due process to all litigants.”

Consequently, the appellate court sent the case back “for further consideration of defendant’s motion to be relieved of the consequences of his failure to adequately represent himself.”



By: Rob Harris

As if changing demographics and an economic downturn weren’t obstacles enough. Now, country clubs are facing targeting by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last month, we noted that the SEC had charged seven golf buddies with insider trading.

Now, the federal government has announced that civil and criminal charges have been brought against the senior vice president of a bank for tipping off a “fellow golfer with whom he socialized at a local country club” about his employer’s plans to acquire another banking institution. The tippee–charged civilly by the SEC, but not criminally–allegedly parlayed the inside information into a $300,000 profit.

For those who view the government’s golf-related actions as aberrations, wrong. The official press release issued by the SEC provides as follows:

“Country clubs or similar venues may give people a false sense of security that leads them to think they can get away with trading on unlawful stock tips,” said Paul G. Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office. “But as in any social setting, people who trade securities based on confidential information they receive are taking a huge risk that their illegal tipping and trading will be identified by the SEC.”

Those who always had an urge to read an SEC insider trading complaint now have their opportunity to do so.

Thanks to Bob Carlson, lawschool friend and author of the Retirement Watch financial newsletter, for alerting me to this hot-off-the-press item.

By: Rob Harris

On August 3, Roger Lee Harris (no relation!) and Bryan Louis Bandes were charged with various counts of assault, following a fight that occurred on the Springdale (Pennsylvania) Golf Club course, having “become embroiled in a heated debate over the rules of golf, specifically regarding water.”

With a golf club allegedly used as a weapon by one of the combatants, it is with complete accuracy and only a small dose of iron-y that I report the case was assigned to Judge Robert Breakiron. With the golfers reportedly refusing to testify against each other (and apparently unwilling to call a violation on themselves), Judge Breakiron determined that a dismissal of all charges was in order.

According to published reports, His Honor left them with a message: “Learn how to conduct yourselves on a golf course. I don’t want you to be back again in this courtroom or I’m going to assess you two penalty strokes.”

By: Rob Harris

Here’s an article that describes what must be Nike’s joy / relief in watching Rory McIlroy surge to professional golf prominence.

Of course, as my golf buddy Ashish Deshpande has been known to say, “every silver lining has a cloud.”

Let’s not forget the lawsuits brought by McIlroy’s former sponsor, Oakley, against Rory and Nike. Oakley claimed that Rory, with the unlawful encouragement of Nike, breached contractual provisions that would have permitted Oakley to retain its relationship. Rory settled his lawsuit (the terms of which are confidential), and soon thereafter a court ruled in favor of Nike.

Meanwhile, McIlroy’s litigation with his former manager continuesHis recent successes may result in upward calculations by expert witnesses as to the damages suffered by the manager.

Enjoy it again and again and again.

By: Rob Harris

A Texas court recently issued a decision that may be of interest to those holding memberships in financially shaky clubs.

As the court explained, the owner of Golf Club at Castle Hills “entered into contracts with appellants that granted appellants lifetime memberships at the golf club, which included free greens fees and other golf-related benefits.”

After several years of financial difficulties, an entity known as Castle Hills Golf Course Company obtained through foreclosure the right to operate the golf course. The new operator refused to honor the lifetime golf contracts.

The members, upset, seized upon language in the membership agreements that provided as follows: “In the event of a transfer of ownership of the [Golf Club at Castle Hills], the membership may continue under the new ownership or may be terminated with a prorated refund to the Applicant as follows: up to ten (10) years 100% and after ten (10) years, 50% of the Lifetime Fee will be refunded.”

With eight years having passed since the golfers had been granted their lifetime membership agreements, they sued for refunds in accordance with their agreements.

The court, however, rejected the members’ claims. According to the court, absent evidence of ratification of the agreements, the foreclosure proceeding served to provide the new operator with the ability to proceed, unencumbered by contractual obligations provided to the lifetime members by the predecessor entity.


By: Rob Harris

Those headed this weekend for a round of golf at TimberStone are cautioned to check their GPS to make sure they are headed to the right place, and aren’t upset with the greens fees or the qualifications of the golf professionals.

The owners of TimberStone Golf Course in Iron Mountain, Michigan have filed a federal lawsuit against the owners of TimberStone Golf Course in Caldwell, Idaho–some 1700 miles away–claiming the latter has committed myriad violations of law that effectively usurp the rights of Michigan’s TimberStone to its name and identity. Plaintiff claims that the Idaho course is diluting the brand of the award winning Michigan course by offering a name-confusing product whose greens fees are less and caliber of instruction is inferior.

For its part, the Idaho owner asserts that the name of its course tracks the name of it’s director’s landscaping business.


By: Rob Harris

The website for the Springdale (Pennsylvania) Golf Club lists as one of the club’s events a “2 Man Scramble.” Based on this weekend’s widely reported ”rules dispute,” SGC should think about adding a “2 Man Rumble” to its competitions.

“According to a police news release, two golfers – one 42 years old and the other 63 – were playing together on Sunday at the Springdale Golf Course in South Union Township and ‘became embroiled in a heated debate over the rules of golf, specifically regarding water, on the fifth hole.’

“The golfers were able to resolve the issue at that time and continue playing, but another argument was “reignited” on the seventh hole ‘similarly involving rules, or lack of understanding of said rules.’”

For a local newsman’s perspective, here’s the video.


By: Rob Harris

Two In Court For Eating Goldfish

“Two 20-year-old men are due in court accused of eating two goldfish alive.

“Jack Blowers and Joseph Meikle, both from Suffolk, have been charged over the incident by the RSPCA. They will appear at Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.

“The pair are accused of failing to protect the goldfish from suffering and injury by swallowing them live, then regurgitating them and failing to provide a suitable environment.”

What does this have to do with golf? Absolutely nothing….except for the fact that this news item in the Irish “Herald” website follows a rather pedestrian story about the resolution of a dispute that arose following the alleged failure of a contracting party to complete the purchase of a hotel, conference and golf complex.


By: Rob Harris

August is here–”silly season” at Golf Dispute Resolution.

Here’s what I have for you today, courtesy of the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“David James Barror, 44, was golfing with his wife last summer at the Harbor Village Links Complex when Richard Fillingame, 64, approached claiming a golf ball had struck his pickup, according to testimony.

“No damage was ever found on the truck but what happened next left Fillingame with several broken facial bones and Barror facing a charge of aggravated battery, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Barror’s defense / explanation? Trayvon Martin. According to Barror’s attorney, John Hager, “at the time of the confrontation Barror had been very aware of the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman had pulled a gun during a confrontation in Sanford and shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death. A jury acquitted Zimmerman on July 13, 2013, of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Hager said Barror was afraid that Fillingame might have a gun.”

The full story can be found here.

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