Golf: Disabled Golfer sues Council for Discrimination

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

One-legged golfer, Paul Houghton, who has a handicap of 14 and has represented England in disability golf thirteen times, is suing Brentwood Council in Essex, England, for discrimination in respect of a ban on using a buggy on their golf course.

In order to play 18 holes, he needs to get around with a golf buggy, but the Council will not allow him to do so, without a letter from his doctor certifying that he is disabled.

He says that he is “gobsmacked’ and has brought legal proceedings against the Council, claiming that he is being discriminated against. He says that he has played 100 courses in England and all over the world and has never been treated in this way before!

His lawyer, Chris Fry, says that “this case is more than just making a service accessible; it’s a reminder of the importance that sport brings to social inclusion, together with physical and mental health.”

The Council denies discrimination.

Cae Menai-Davis, co-founder of a charity, the Golf Trust, whose aim is to make golf more inclusive for the disabled, commented to the media that “golf is a sport for everyone.”

Certainly, discrimination of any kind in sport is prohibited under the Olympic Charter, and it will be interesting to see what the Court makes of Houghton’s claim, assuming that he does not reach a friendly settlement with the Council.

The English case has shades of the Casey Martin case in the United States, in which the US Supreme Court upheld his claim, in a 7-2 verdict, to use a golf cart on the PGA Tour, due to a circulatory condition that impaired his ability to walk!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’