Judge ruling in golf course discrimination case causes controversy

Bob Lobel, long-serving Boston-area media personality, has lost one of the more curious golf course related lawsuits in recent memory.

Lobel, who has done everything from anchoring news broadcasts to working as the public-address announcer at Fenway Park, is afflicted with spinal stenosis.

The condition leads to a narrowing of the vertebra surrounding the spinal cord. This results in painful pinching of the cord and nerves, and as a result, Lobel is unable to walk without crutches.

The condition hasn’t kept him off the links however. He uses an adapted golf cart, which he sort of sits against, to swing the club. Presumably, he drives the cart on the green to putt as well. And in addition to being an etiquette no-no, driving a cart on the putting surface can cause damage.

So, it wasn’t totally surprising, then, when during a round at private Woodland Golf Club, Lobel was told he couldn’t take the cart on course, and thus he couldn’t play.

“This came from a lack of understanding,” Lobel told reporters at the time. “This was an attitude that was manifested in so many different ways.”

Maybe so, but one key element of this story, as mentioned, Woodland is a private club. Thus, they’re not subject to the same accessibility requirements that govern public venues. So they almost certainly understood his plight, but knew they weren’t obligated to cut him a break.

Per the Boston Globe:

“US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor, who ruled Wednesday that Woodland “has all the basic characteristics of a private club, including genuine selectivity of membership and exclusion of non-members from regular or indiscriminate use of its facilities,” and thus is not subject to the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

“It’s your club, do what you want to,” is a fact we accept under law in this country. The ADA doesn’t apply to private clubs! Private clubs are free to discriminate however they choose, and if they don’t want a guy driving on the greens strapped to a golf cart to putt, that’s their prerogative.

Those are the facts. If you don’t like these facts, take issue with the law, not with Woodland. And further, while the effort at crusading for the handicapped is noble, Mr. Lobel isn’t even a member at the course, so it’s not like the decision materially impacts his life.

Lobel’s attorney, Michael Longo, indicated his client decision to appeal. While he plans to appeal, it’s unclear how he or his lawyer legitimately think they’ll get any other ruling in such a cut-and-dried case.