It's a slow week in the golf world, but fortunately Steve Elling filed this interesting behind-the-scenes piece with Arnold Palmer. Elling and a few other scribes tagged along with Palmer as he filmed a show with the Golf Channel about his legendary workshop and collection of golf clubs.
From a purely comparative standpoint, Palmer's garage workshop in Orlando is a broom closet relative to the massive, museum-sized warehouse he keeps at his summer home in Latrobe, Pa., where thousands of old clubs are stored.
"Not even close," he said.
As Palmer taped the session, everybody eyeballed the smaller treasure trove on his walls and workbench, where he still re-grips his own clubs. He used to get guff from other players about how often he re-gripped his clubs, and says he once won the Houston Open with three different sets of grips on the same sticks, because he had to have them just so.
Palmer remains, in some ways, the most accessible, popular pro in the game. A few years ago, before a morning round of what is now called the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a local sports-talk radio station was broadcasting from a tent located about 150 yards from the Bay Hill clubhouse. It was shortly after dawn when Palmer was spotted while taking his morning constitutional with Mulligan, now 9 years old, alongside.
The radio guys waved. Palmer came over, sat down, put on a set of headphones and gabbed through an impromptu segment, live and without a leash. Small wonder the guy remains as popular as any pro in the game, as evidenced by the Q ratings marketing yardstick released earlier this year, when he ranked atop Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in popularity and likeability. Now a great-grandfather, he's enjoyed that enviable position for much of the past 50 years.
Ever since people have trod meadows and moors intent on striking hard white balls with bottom-weighted clubs, people have been suing one another for shots gone awry. Golf has evolved into the perfect litigation machine, beloved by lawyers, perhaps because so many are making a good living filing suits, defending suits and providing advice on injuries, course and product design, environmental damage, discrimination and almost anything that could conceivably find its way into a courtroom.
“Golf and the law seem to have been made for each other,” writes Craig Brown, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario in “Why Lawyers Love Golf,” published in 2007 in Australia by Scribblers Publishing. “On every fairway, in every stretch of rough, in every clubhouse, in every golf bag, at every swing at the ball, in every set of plans for a new course, in every application for club membership, there lurks a potential lawsuit.”
There’s much logic to this. Golf involves hitting a rock-hard ball at high speed in unpredictable directions. Its devotees often range from the comfortable to the wealthy, the perfect demographic for suing and being sued. Golfers cover all ages, but many are old enough that the misplaced step onto sod covering a hole that is shrugged off by a 20-year-old ends the square-dancing career of a retiree in her 60s. It involves vast areas of land, often including wetlands and endangered species, and tons of fertilizer and pesticides. Its products (balls alone are a three-quarter billion-dollar business in the United States) and brand names (witness the Big Bertie knockoffs of Big Bertha drivers) are the subject of billion-dollar patent infringement and intellectual property claims.
The potential sale of Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y., to Trump Golf may face a legal hurdle prior to the membership vote on the matter, reportedly scheduled to take place in mid-to-late January. On December 20, Larry Hutcher, a lawyer for an unnamed group of Engineers members operating under the banner "Association for a Better Engineers" ("ABE") sent a strongly worded letter to Engineers CC's Board of Directors, stating: "While we are prepared to commence an action and move for injunctive relief to enjoin the Board's submission of this proposal to the entire membership of the Club for a vote, my clients and I would prefer to try to amicably resolve this matter." ...
A source at the club who spoke on the condition of anonymity had previously described an acrimonious divide between long-time Engineers members and newer members who had recently converted trial memberships into full memberships. The former group, said the source, was more likely to be opposed to a sale to Trump Golf than the latter group. The "ABE" letter puts a finer point on the issue — and suggests it is another potential cause for legal action.