More than Bogeys and Putters: Golf Linked to the Courts

The Masters, the first major golf championship of the year, gets underway this week at Augusta National Golf Club.  Golf and the law are not strangers.  Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, who served on the court from 1877-1911, was an avid golfer.  Justice Harlan’s love of the links was often remarked upon in the newspapers, and it was noted that he played the course at the Chevy Chase Club in Bethesda, Maryland almost daily when the Court was in session.  To read about Justice Harlan’s love of golf and other Supreme Court connections to the sport, see Ross E. Davies, The Judicial and Ancient Game: James Wilson, John Marshall Harlan, and the Beginnings of Golf at the Supreme Court, 35 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 122 (2010).   One way to determine whether the library has this journal is to use VIRGO and enter the title into the search window.  The library’s holdings, both print and electronic access, will be listed.

Golf does not just interact with the law on the course, but makes its way into the courtroom as well.  In 2001, the Supreme Court held in PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661, that golf courses were places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus must make reasonable accommodations for disabled players.  This case granted Casey Martin, a player with a disability, the right to use a golf cart on tour events.   

Golf has also been the center of controversy regarding the discriminatory membership practices of some of its clubs—including Augusta National, home of The Masters.  If you are interested in reading articles on these issues, one way to find them is to use Legal Periodicals Full Text.  This database is available to UVA students and faculty.  A search in this resource for “golf AND discrimination” results in 52 hits.  While there is access to some full-text articles, for the rest of the articles the “Find at UVA” button will take you to VIRGO and show you where you can access the article in UVA’s collection.  Below is a screenshot from the result list in Legal Periodicals Full Text.

  Screen - Golf - April 2011(click for full-size image)

Finally, legal writers are also drawn to the laws of golf.  Noted lexicographer and golf aficionado Bryan Garner is perhaps best known as the editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, but he also co-wrote with Jeffrey S. Kuhn The Rules of Golf in Plain English.   

– Leslie Ashbrook

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