The Tip of the Iceberg?

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In November, a leading golf management company “amicably resolves” a $500,000 lawsuit for sexual harassment.

We are confident that this fine management firm has policies established, training programs implemented and discipline procedures in effect for transgressions.

While they have controlled the controllable what cannot be controlled, unfortunately, is the transgressions of rogue employees who believe they can deviate from those dictates based on their position and their lack of character.  The frequently issued defense statements “that they vehemently deny the allegations” often rings hollow to me in contrast to the precise details frequently provided in a plaintiff’s affidavit. 

Further, the owner of a Cottage Grove, MN golf course also recently charged with sexual harassment.

In an industry, largely of men, by men and for men, are these settlements the tip of the iceberg for the golf industry?

Daily headlines now appear regarding those in the movie industry, media and in the political arena where the barriers of fear of reprisal have fortunately been removed.  The Washington Post published on November 21, 2017; a fabulous article asking six thorny questions including:

  • Is the problem systematic?
  • What created the culture?
  • What makes an accuser’s story more credible than the next?
  • What are the motives?

In interviews conducted for this article with numerous leaders within the golf industry, we heard multiple stories of conduct on golf courses that were inappropriate.

Google quickly leads you to course reviews of questionable conduct:

“There are also a bunch of creepy photos of what appear to be prostitute caddies everywhere you can rent for $150. Very off-putting for female golfers like us.”[1]

For an industry built on tradition, respect for the rules and one’s associates, what should be black or white now appears to raise more questions than answers.

  • Is one’s conduct under scrutiny only in the workplace or does it apply to social situations as well?
  • What is the difference between playful banter and inappropriate sexual innuendo?
  • If one initiates the banter that is responded to in like kind, has the initiator waived their right to claim sexual harassment?
  • Is the line crossed only when both genders are involved?
  • Is “locker room talk” amongst the same gender in a work environment permissible?
  • Do restaurants or golf courses create a hostile work environment if their wait staff is required to dress in salacious uniforms?
  • Is sexual harassment more likely to occur at a private club where the member has frequent interaction with staff or at a public golf course where the interaction is likely a one-off occurrence?
  • Is it appropriate for a golf course to permit an outing where “evening entertainers” will serve as caddies performing sexual acts with the golfers?
  • If employees are provided the option of not working for such an event but receive pay and no reprisal, is such an event permissible?
  • Does the ownership of a golf course, i.e., municipal, daily fee or private club change the answer as to the permissibility of such events?
  • Does a golf course have the responsibility to define standards of conduct for its customers concerning interaction with the course staff?
  • If a golfer sexually harasses an employee, what is the appropriate course of action for the owner and the course’s management?

The answers to some of the questions are obvious.  Based on my discussions with leaders within the golf industry, the answers to some other questions are not.

It is my thought that it would behoove golf course owners and their management teams to examine the questions posed above within the following framework that a leading PGA Executive stated clearly.

“Onsite management represents the owner, and it is the responsibility of staff on site to ensure that the workplace environment is free from discrimination and sexual harassment for all of those who frequent the facility. The failure to do such is a dereliction of duty.”

That is my thought.  What is yours?  Comment below and/or participate in a six-question survey.

[1] Read more here:

Myrtle Beach Caddy Girls owner Meghan Tarmey has ended an arrangement to provide caddies to The Kilted Caddy Club & Café at Azalea Sands Golf Club.

Tarmey’s business has provided female caddies outfitted in skirts or shorts, golf shirts, knee-high argyle socks and sneakers to groups playing on most area courses for the past several years, and was contracted to provide caddies to Kilted Caddy Club, which had a grand opening on June 7.

The Kilted Caddy’s social media page indicates the business is a creation of Michael J. Peter, a national mogul of adult entertainment and spinoff businesses who is a longtime owner of Thee DollHouse in the North Myrtle Beach area.

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1 comment

  1.    Reply

    As someone who has been around the industry, from an inside perspective, this is like putting the genie back in the bottle.
    When I say this, I am not referring to the staff following the proper guidelines for appropriate behavior, but rather the golfers who visit a facility.
    Posing a what if:
    A golfer play your course. While on the course and during the round, a female beverage cart attendant feels the golfer in question has made inappropriate comments or gestures that could be defined as sexual harassment.
    Who is held liable? The course, for not properly vetting this particular golfer, and allowing the employee to be put in a dangerous(compromising) environment or the golfer, who may have signed up for his round or cart. And the ticket (in this small print on the back)laid out how he can and cannot behave) and he signed it, holding the facility harmless for his or her conduct?
    This is a slippery and very interesting slope.