Dear Lord Mackay: A message to the Lord Chancellor: what we need is a Golf Act to keep players out of the legal bunker

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I expect you'll know, being a lawyer from north of the border, that the Royal and Ancient game of golf hasn't troubled courts much since a royal edict in 1457. Then James II ordered that 'fute ball and golfe be utterly cryed donne, and not to be used'. There was a hefty 'fourtie shilling' fine. OK, King Jamie's spelling wasn't up to national curriculum standards, but those neglecting their archery practice got the message.

Well, a word of warning, Lord Chancellor. Britain's courts could become jam-packed with golfers if recent events in a Nottingham court room are anything to go by.

Just in case you've been busy with the right to silence, and missed these precedent-setting proceedings, it centres on a self-made businessman, John Buckingham. He is suing two fellow amateur golfers who accused him of cheating during the 1990 Sherwood Open - not, I hasten to add, one of the recognised major titles.

They sent a letter to his club, Sherwood Forest, accusing him, inter alia, of dropping two balls from his trousers to replace lost ones in the rough. (Perhaps I should phrase that again in more precise legal language, knowing how important this is to you.) You remember the old 'through the pocket, down the trouser leg' trick that Oddjob used to such dastardly effect against James Bond in Goldfinger?

Barristers, Queen's Counsels, and one of your appointed judges have worked hard on the libel case. But as I write to you, I expect briefs are piling up on clerks' desks throughout the Inns of Court from wronged golfers desperate to set m'learned friends on 'those cheating sharks who've taken good money off me every Saturday morning for donkey's years'.

Offences will need to be gathered in new legislation. 'The Golf Act 1994' is quite catchy. Special sections will be needed for offences such as 'distracting coughing whilst on the tee' and illegal use of 'disguised friendly advice designed to increase hook or slice of opponent's ball'.

The current procedure of extra strokes on the score card, or disqualification, obviously isn't seen as enough.

And can I suggest a section in the Golf Act for greenkeepers who fail to mow greens correctly, especially in the flawed patch that's always between your ball and the hole?

Archbold and Gatley, the barrister's bibles, will, of course, need to be amended. In fact the High Court divisions of Queen's Bench, Chancery and Family will not be able to cope with the deluge of golf actions. The 'Golf Division' has a certain ring to it, don't you think?

There's also the employment aspect to be considered, as your colleague David Hunt will recognise. A caddy will not be enough for routine play. True golfers will need their solicitor with them from 1st to 18th. A private detective in the rough, gathering evidence for future civil proceedings, will become essential. Pringle, who make those jumpers loved by Nick Faldo, could even bring out a special range to help you to identify easily a lawyer on duty on the course.

As I've always said about golf, this isn't just a game.

(Photograph omitted)