(660) GOLF CLUB JUSTICE UPHELD
Normally the Scottish Courts website simply publishes the texts of court judgements without comment or further material to assist the reader in knowing quickly what a case was about and what it decided. The only exception Scots Law News had noted before 31 July 2007 was the McTear case in 2005, on the liability of cigarette manufacturers to smokers (see No 466). But the judicial review of a decision by the committee of the Nairn Golf Club at the behest of Mr Lindsay Smith () CSOH 136, Lord Macphail) now provides another example. The text of the summary which precedes Lord Macphail’s opinion is presumably to make it clear to the media and the public generally that the judge was not making a decision on the merits of the basic dispute between the parties – a question of whether Mr Smith had cheated playing golf – but on whether the way in which the club had decided the dispute was fair and met the requirements of what lawyers call natural justice (not at all the same thing that non-lawyers might understand by that phrase). Lord Macphail holds that the club’s proceedings were indeed fair, whether or not their decision that Mr Smith had cheated was also. For the summary and Lord Macphail’s opinion see http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2007CSOH136.html. The decision leaves Mr Smith, an official with the Royal Bank of Scotland, in a difficult position on where to go next if indeed he did not cheat. From a legal point of view, the case is also interesting as an example of the public law remedy of judicial review in the context of the essentially private law, contractual relationship between the members of a voluntary association. But it is of course not the first such case; and Lord Macphail cites at least three other recent ones from golf clubs, namely Irvine v Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh 2004 SCLR 386, Crocket v Tantallon Golf Club 2005 SLT 663 and Wiles v Bothwell Golf Club 2005 SLT 785. Two thoughts occur to the editor of Scots Law News, himself an irregularl hacker of small white balls around various parts of the Scottish countryside, with occasional conversions of heritable to moveable property all part of the fun. One is his wife’s advice, admittedly not always readily taken, that it’s only a game; and the other is Mark Twain’s perceptive definition of the said game as a good walk spoiled.