Monday, November 25, 2002

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN GOLF LAW (originally posted 5/29/01)

Golf lawyers reading today's decision in PGA v. Martin, No. 00-24, have understandably focused on the Court's bombshell holding that walking is an inessential element of tournament gold. Less noticed, however, are a number of important aspects of that case that could substantially affect the development of gold law in the years to come. For example, the Court's long-awaited definition of "shot-making," ("using clubs to cause a ball to progress from the teeing ground to a hole some distance away with asa few strokes as possible," slip op. at 21) resolves a circuit split in favor of the Third Circuit and against the Eighth, which had held that a player engaged in "shot-making" even if he was trying to maximize the number of strokes to put the ball in the hole.

The Court demonstrated admirable restraint in refusing to reach out and decide the vexing and politically charged "hole-diameter" question (slip op. at 20) that has troubled commentators for so long and that promises to continue to keep golf-law practitioners busily employed for years in countless lawsuits.

Of course, the full implications of the Martin case will only become clear as the case is applied in the courts of appeals. We can hope for further guidance in this area next Term, when the Court tackles another important case in which it has granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split over whether golf or bowling is the more boring sport.

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