The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 5

GOLF COURSE
OPERATIONS

What does a dating app have to do with
golf pricing?
By Jim Dunlap

A

lawsuit ostensibly targeting the Tinder dating site and
working its way inexorably toward the California Supreme Court could, if successful, have serious consequences for the golf industry on several levels. The suit, filed by a
gentleman named Allan Candelore as Candelore v. Tinder, Inc.,
charges that Tinder violated California's Unruh Civil Rights
Act by charging less to users under the age of 30. Following its
second stop on the legal ladder at California's Second Appellate Court, en route to the state's Supreme Court, the verdict is
currently in Candelore's favor. If you are a golf course owner or
operator or a private club membership director, you may want
to keep a close eye on the California Supreme Court deliberations, even if you're not in California. Those age-based greens fee
discounts or membership categories may attract the attention of
some litigious type at your course or club and encourage him or
her to try his or her luck in court.
The age-based price discrimination complaint alleged that
Tinder charged a lower price for certain features of its dating
app to users under the age of 30. It first landed in Los Angeles
County Superior Court, where it was promptly dismissed. The
court ruled that the Unruh Act only prohibits arbitrary or unreasonable discrimination and that age-based pricing had never
before been ruled unlawful under that standard. When the case
moved on to the Second Appellate District, however, the initial
ruling was reversed when the court instituted a new standard
that could be a threat to age-based discounts in all kinds of businesses, including golf. The court held that an age-based discount
is only permissible if "every" person in the age group getting the
discount is economically disadvantaged or the discount is supported by a compelling social policy reflected in legislative enactments, whatever that means.
Craig Kessler is the Director of Governmental Affairs for
the Southern California Golf Association and the ever-vigilant
observer who alerted his many followers to the Candelore v.
Tinder case and its potential impact on the golf industry. Kessler noted that the Second Appellate District ruling essentially
overturned decades of precedent allowing age-based discounts.
He cited a recent First Appellate Court ruling that an under-30
discount offered for health club membership didn't violate the
Unruh Act. He pointed out that many businesses, aware that
young adults and Millennials may have their own set of financial problems due to student loans, rising housing costs, a tight
job market, etc., have begun offering discounts on products and
services to that age group, similar to what has been done for

years for seniors or, for that matter, juniors.
As a matter of fact, Kessler noted that the SCGA, via its position on a number of municipal golf advisory boards and within
the organization, has advocated special discount pricing categories for those young adults/Millennials who might thereby be
persuaded to play or play more golf.
The JC Golf group, which runs around a dozen courses in
the San Diego area, has offered what it calls the 20-30 Club for
some time. Players in that age range pay a small annual fee and
pay fees of only $20 or $30 to play during select times.
John McNair, the Vice President for Golf of JC Resorts, said
the 20-30 Club has been very popular. He hadn't yet read Kessler's message on the Tinder lawsuit and its potential threat to
golf, but he said, "If juniors get [discounts] and seniors get them,
why shouldn't that age group get a rate too?"
While it would seem unlikely that age-based discounts will
be ultimately ruled in violation of the Unruh Act and banned at
establishments and institutions across the board, if that should
happen it could create problems ranging further than the pro
shop counter for the golf industry. Age-based greens fees would
be taboo at public courses, eliminating not only rates like the
20-30 Club but also the time-honored junior or senior rates. So,
however, would "Junior" or "Young Executive" memberships at
private clubs.
Needless to say, Tinder is confused about the fate of their
age-based pricing after two court appearances have produced
two different opinions. Kessler reports that the company has
filed a petition with the California Supreme Court asking for a
definitive resolution of the issue that provides clear direction to
Tinder and others in similar situations as to what constitutes an
exemption under the Unruh Act. Accordingly, Kessler said that
the SCGA is asking the statewide golf advocacy alliance to consider submitting an "amicus letter" to the state's Supreme Court
in support of the Tinder petition asking for a definitive ruling.
As Kessler pointed out, such an amicus letter would not necessarily take a position on the issue one way or another, but would
merely advocate the need for a clear opinion to guide businesses,
including golf courses and clubs, in making decisions about agebased pricing discounts.
Again, as noted, this is at present purely a California issue,
based on the Unruh Civil Rights Act which is applicable only
in the state. On the other hand, this wouldn't be the first movement that started on the Left Coast and moved Eastward, so it's
always a good idea to keep an ear to the legal ground.
n

The court held that an age-based discount is only permissible if "every" person in the age
group getting the discount is economically disadvantaged or the discount is supported by
a compelling social policy reflected in legislative enactments, whatever that means.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018

TOC
Digital technology a boon for instructors
The age of discrimination
What do Swiss watches and golf have in common?
March golf weather impact: Forgettable month, dismal quarter
Cincinnati operators holding their own
Masters missed a chance to attract new golfers
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - Digital technology a boon for instructors
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - The age of discrimination
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - What do Swiss watches and golf have in common?
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 7
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 8
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - March golf weather impact: Forgettable month, dismal quarter
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 10
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - Cincinnati operators holding their own
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 13
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - 14
The Pellucid Perspective - April 2018 - Masters missed a chance to attract new golfers
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