Pornographic playing cards, buggy bans, where to put barbed wire fences, the treatment of part-time bar staff and the consequences of members behaving badly are just some of the legal queries the National Golf Clubs Advisory Association answers on a daily basis.
The NGCAA provides a round the clock legal hotline for its 1,200 members and Michael Shaw is the man who provides the answers. A lawyer by profession, Shaw became national secretary of the Association in 2001. The non-profit making NGCAA was formed in 1922 to provide legal and administrative advice and support for its member golf clubs.
Members pay a small annual subscription fee to provide the service and they own all the Association’s assets. Tim Yeo and Sam Torrance recently became high profile vice-presidents. The Association is also actively supported by the R&A and the Home Golf Unions.
“Our members range from the most prestigious of golf clubs to the smallest. Regardless of size they all face the same legal issues and we are simply here to help,” Shaw explains.
Shaw was a vocal fierce critic of new licensing regulations that have hiked up costs for golf clubs: “I receive calls every day from clubs who are struggling with their understanding of the new licensing laws. It’s hardly surprising. The powers that be haven‘t made it easy for law-abiding golf clubs.”
So, aside from the controversial licensing laws what sort of other legal queries do golf clubs have?
“On an average day, I‘ll get thirty calls and almost as many email queries from secretaries or committee members who need a legal point clarifying before pursuing with a project. It could be a boundary dispute, a membership or an employment law issue. One young employee at a golf club was caught playing with pornographic playing cards, which outraged the members. Clubs need to know where they stand with regards to disciplining people. Could he be fired? Could we suspend him? That kind of thing.
“Clubs face similar problems from time to time with their membership, can a member be suspended or perhaps expelled?
“More commonly, visits from health and safety officers, trading standards officers and all manner of bureaucrats who want to know the ins and outs of our golf clubs take up a great deal of time. It’s my job to make sure our members know the law so they can comply with it. If they have any problems, they know they can just give us a call.
“Other issues include the treatment of transsexual members, how to legally introduce buggy bans and trespassers being hit by golf balls. All these have legal implications and if not handled properly can involve the clubs in expensive litigation.”