Chin Hong Oon Ronny v Tanah Merah Country Club

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeLai Siu Chiu J
Judgment Date21 May 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGHC 99
Citation[2001] SGHC 99
Date21 May 2001
Defendant CounselLee Han Tiong and Julian Tay (Lee & Lee)
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1519 of
Plaintiff CounselCheong Yuen Hee (as counsel) and Richard Sam (Sam & Wijaya)
Publication Date19 September 2003
SubjectApplication by plaintiff for declarations that Club's decisions void,Application by plaintiff to cross-examine,Affidavits,'Fishing expedition',Whether to allow discovery,Judicial review,Defendant's general manager deposing affidavit,Disclosure of documents,Relevancy of documents,Whether to allow cross-examination,Administrative Law,Disciplinary proceedings,Nature of court's function in relation to such proceedings,Civil Procedure,Suspension of plaintiff's golfing privileges by defendants,O 53 r 1(1) Rules of Court,Application for discovery by plaintiff,Whether plaintiff given right to be heard

:

Background



Ronny Chin (`the plaintiff`) is a member of the Tanah Merah Country Club (`the defendants`) which is a golfing and social club situated near Changi International Airport in Singapore.

On 29 September 2000, the plaintiff filed this originating summons praying, inter alia, for the following reliefs:

    (1) a declaration that the proceedings and the decision of the defendants to suspend the plaintiff`s golfing privileges from 14th August to 13th November 2000 are null and void;
    (2) a declaration that the defendants` decision to charge the plaintiff under Rule 41(i)(c) is made ultra vires the Rules and therefore null and void;
    (3) a declaration that the defendants` decision to charge the plaintiff under Rule 41(i)(c) is made in bad faith and is null and void;
    (4) an injunction restraining the defendants their servants or agents from proceeding under Rule 41(i)(c);
    (5) an injunction restraining the defendants their servants or agents from preventing the plaintiff from exercising his golfing privileges.



I dismissed the originating summons with costs and the plaintiff has now appealed against my decision (in CA 600014/2001).

Facts



On the afternoon of 20 June 2000, the plaintiff played a round of golf at the defendants` Tampines course with three guests he had invited; they were Thomas Toh Swee Hee (`TT`) (who was his buggy-mate), Jeffrey Sim and Lee Ee Jin. In the defendants` census sheet for the Tampines course, both the plaintiff and TT declared their handicaps as 11, which meant they had played golf for a reasonably long time and/or they were reasonably good golfers.

At the seventeenth hole which is a par 3 hole, there was another group of golfers in front of the plaintiff and his guests. The foursome waited for the front flight to move off and board their buggies before TT teed off. According to the plaintiff, because of the fading light, he/his guests could not see clearly. As TT hit his shot, they realised that the front flight was still on the track. Immediately TT, the plaintiff and Jeffrey Sim shouted `fore` to warn them. The front flight came out of their buggies to look at the foursome before re-boarding their buggies and leaving; one of them subsequently lodged a complaint against the plaintiff with the defendants.

The plaintiff then received a letter dated 27 June 2000 from the defendants` general manager (Jeffrey Quah) headed `Dangerous play on 20 June 2000 at Tampines course`, which second paragraph reads as follows:

Striking a ball when the players ahead are within range is very dangerous and is a breach of our safety rule. You are requested to submit an explanation in writing on or before July 10 2000 as disciplinary action is being contemplated against you in respect of the incidents.



The plaintiff gave his written explanation to the defendants on 14 July 2000 accompanied by a statement from TT dated 5 July 2000 which he confirmed. In his explanation, the plaintiff stated that the complainant (Gerald Mah) was known to TT adding that `the front flight had indulged in slow play throughout their entire game` and, TT had told him that the complainant had said that he was having a farewell game for some associate and had `a very important German banker` in his flight. In his statement, TT denied he had indulged in dangerous play; paras 4 and 5 of his statement read as follows:

Hole no. 17 Par 3

    4. I was the first player to tee-off and after teeing up my ball, I waited for the front flight to leave the green. The pin was on the extreme right of the green and the adjacent buggy-track (somewhat shielded by some palms/trees from where we were at the tee-box) at the extreme left . As I took up my address position, all the players in the front flight were boarding the buggies on the left. My sight was then focused towards the right where the pin position was. I made a few practice swings and then hit my shot. My shot went wayward to the left and as I looked ahead into the fading light (the complainant himself gave the time as 7.15pm) I spotted the buggies were still at the track. Together with Mr Ronnie Chin, we shouted "fore" as loudly as we could.
    5. Although my explanation of the Par 3 incident in paragraph 4 stands on its own , I would add that had the front flight ridden off in their buggies without undue delay (not even mentioning the time they took to putt out and moved from pin to buggies) the incident complained about would not have happened.



The defendants forwarded the plaintiff`s explanation/TT`s statement to the complainant. The complainant`s response dated 24 July 2000, inter alia, stated:

Hole no. 17

Their statement on this hole confirm that they were aware that we were within range when the ball was struck. This is deliberate dangerous play.

It would appear to be more than a coincidence that on both holes 16 and 17, the same player was involved.

On the comment of slow play, we had to wait for the front flight to play out each of their holes from the 3rd hole onwards. Adding to the overall delay in the completion of play was rain delay and onset of darkness. If there is deliberate slow play, the back flight can always contact the marshals who are there to manage the speed of play.

I do not see the relevance in Mr Ronnie Ching`s statement that I was playing with a "very important German banker". If Mr Ronnie Ching have ( sic) a personal problem with foreigners or the banking community in particular, he should have stayed in his own comfort zone instead of being on the golf course.

I do not know Mr Ronnie Ching nor any of his 2 other flight mates. As for Mr Toh, other than the telephone conversation I had with him on 22 June, I had neither met nor spoken to him in the last 32 years.



The plaintiff received the defendants` letter dated 4 August 2000 (signed by the general manager) which contained the following relevant paragraphs:

After considering the reports submitted by all parties involved including your explanation, the Captain is satisfied that your guest Thomas Toh is guilty of dangerous play at the 17th hole par 3. The rules of golf require that "no player should play until the players in front are out of range". In view of the short distance from the tee to the green at the 17th hole, a tee shot executed when the players in front are still within range can cause very serious injury. As you are responsible for your guest`s action, the Captain in consultation with the Greens Committee has decided to suspend your golfing privileges for 3 months.

You are accordingly informed that your golfing privileges are to be suspended from the 14th August 2000 to the 13th November 2000.



The plaintiff`s second letter (dated 17 August 2000) to the defendants stated he was prepared to respect the Captain`s finding but added that at worst, it was an error of judgment on his and on the part of TT. He agreed with the Captain`s decision that the complaint amounted to a minor offence where the maximum penalty would not normally involve more than six months` suspension (r 41(i)(a) of the defendants` rules). He went on to say:

I would respectfully submit that there are strong mitigating factors in my favour:

    1. To reiterate, it was, at worst, an error of judgment on Mr Toh`s part as well as mine that the players in front were out of range brought about by the fact that we were playing in failing light.
    2. We had shouted "fore" when we spotted the front buggies in the darkness and had therefore alerted the front players to take steps to protect themselves.
    3. The front players were not on the green nor the fringe/apron but at the buggy track...

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1 cases
  • Progress Software Corp (S) Pte Ltd v Central Provident Board
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 8 August 2002
    ...under a private proceeding. 7. Mr. Dylan, counsel for the plaintiff, referred me to Chin Hong Oon Ronny v Tanah Merah Country Club [2002] 3 SLR 226 for the proposition that the Originating Summons is an acceptable mode of proceedings because in that case, the objection that it was not was o......
2 books & journal articles
  • Civil Procedure
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...compelling but even then, it was unlikely that the court would do so. Affidavits 6.57 In Chin Hong Oon Ronny v Tanah Merah Country Club[2002] 3 SLR 226, the applicant sought to overturn a decision of a golf and social club to commence disciplinary proceedings against him. The substance of t......
  • Administrative and Constitutional Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...the unreported judgment was discussed in the annual review for 2001. This is the case of Chin Hong Oon Ronny v Tanah Merah Country Club[2002] 3 SLR 226, discussed earlier in (2001) 2 SAL Ann Rev 1 at paras 1.3—1.5. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW Judicial review Order 53 proceedings 1.2 The primary mode......

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