It doesn't seempossible that some cities in the U.S. could make walking on a public golfcourse illegal, but a few have done just that. The Florida municipalities ofDaytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Port Orange have mandated that golfers ride agolf cart when playing on their six public courses.
I'm 71 andstarted playing golf in 1949. I've always walked. To me, walking is anessential part of the game. Until I moved to the Daytona area seven years ago,I lived most of my life in the suburbs of Detroit, where I worked for 27 yearsat an energy utility and another 12 as a homebuilder. In the late 1980s Istarted making regular trips to Daytona Beach, and during those trips I enjoyedplaying on the public courses. But in 1990 two of those courses made cartsmandatory to increase revenue (I was told), and over the next few years theothers followed. This not only ruined my golf experience, but it also struck meas unfair. Requiring golf carts changes the basic nature of the game anddeprives people of their liberty to choose. Governments cannot make walkingillegal on public land without a good reason.
I approached acity commissioner about eliminating the restriction but was told that as amatter of proprietary law the city was allowed to mandate carts. I continued topress for a more satisfying resolution but got only evasions and excuses.Finally, in 1996, I started visiting law libraries. When I looked upproprietary law, I learned that it did allow cities to make whatever rules theywanted, as long as they did not violate the Constitution. As I see it, theConstitution guarantees me the right to choose to walk.
In 2002 I filedsuit against five of the six courses, saying that they were denying me myconstitutional rights. The judge denied the motion, saying that I had notidentified a "deprived liberty interest." I rewrote the complaint andtried again. I was denied for the same reason, and the judge recommended that Ihire a lawyer to rewrite the complaint for me. The lawyer turned in a complexfour-page document that he promised the judge would have to let stand. Guesswhat? It was denied for the same reason.
February 20, 2006
I appealed to theFifth District Court of Appeal, the Florida Supreme Court and eventually to theU.S. Supreme Court. While I lost in the courts, I feel every pertinent lawsupports my position. Thus, my conviction has only gotten stronger. I deeplybelieve that the Constitution is the supreme law of the United States, and hopethat it, and all the golfers who love to walk, will someday prevail.
Daniel E. Zurla,10 handicapper, has written A Civil Right: The Freedom to Walk a Public GolfCourse (Seven Locks Press).
Golf Plus willnext appear in the March 6 Sports Illustrated.
by JAMES P. HERRE
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