Golf club member's contractual rights upheld

Posted: 23rd January 2020

Golf ballClub members who abide by the rules and pay their subscriptions have contractual rights. In a case on point, a judge came to the aid of a man whose cherished membership of a prestigious golf club was cancelled irrationally and in bad faith.

The Australian citizen had paid a substantial fee to join the club but, as an overseas member, paid substantially reduced annual subscriptions as he was only permitted to play 30 rounds of golf at the club annually. His membership was terminated by the club’s governing committee on the basis that he was not permanently resident outside the UK.

After the man launched proceedings, the judge found that that conclusion was wrong. The evidence established that his home was in Sydney and that he had never settled permanently in the UK. He was thus entitled to overseas membership under the club’s rules.

Noting that the man had been given no notice of the crucial committee meeting, the judge found that he had deserved better. It was very difficult not to accept that personal dislike, and a perception that he was not the type of person that the club wished to have as a member, had played a part in the committee’s fundamentally flawed decision. Having been taken in bad faith, for an improper purpose, the decision was one that no rational decision-maker could have reached.

There was no dispute that the man’s membership of the club gave rise to a binding contractual relationship and, notwithstanding the breakdown in trust and confidence between him and certain other members, the judge issued an injunction requiring his reinstatement. He was also awarded £250 in damages to reflect the embarrassment he suffered.