Facts of the Case
Among the ways that an individual could qualify to compete in the professional golf tournaments that comprised two tours, both of which were sponsored by the Professional Golf Association Tour, Inc. (PGA), was by successfully completing a three-stage qualifying tournament known as the Q-School. Any member of the public could enter the Q-School, during the third stage of which the use of golf carts was prohibited, by paying $3,000 and submitting two letters of reference from, among others, members of the two tours. Although the Rules of Golf, which applied at all levels of amateur and professional golf, did not prohibit the use of golf carts at any time, a set of rules that applied specifically to the two tours required golfers to walk the golf courses during tournaments.
Does the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provide access to professional golf tournaments by a qualified entrant with a disability?May a disabled contestant be denied the use of a golf cart because it would fundamentally alter the nature of the tournaments to allow him to ride when all other contestants must walk?
Yes and no. In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that Title III of the ADA, by its plain terms, prohibits the PGA from denying Martin equal access to its tours on the basis of his disability and that allowing Martin to use a cart, despite the walking rule, is not a modification that would fundamentally alter the nature of the game. The purpose of the walking rule is… not compromised in the slightest by allowing Martin to use a cart, wrote Justice Stevens, noting Martin’s fatiguing disability. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented.
- Citation: 532 US 661 (2001)
- Argued: Jan 17, 2001
- Decided May 29, 2001