Lakeside Golf Club, where a membership starts at $80,000 and photos of Frank Sinatra playing caddy for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope grace the lounge walls, is the epitome of Hollywood's most exclusive and privileged luxuries.
It's a club for everyone who's anyone in Los Angeles. So how is it decided who gets to join, how often they can play, and what membership privileges they're granted?
Jennifer Merkel admits she's a poor golfer, but she took up the sport anyway in the hope that it would bring her closer to her husband, a life-long player with a membership at Lakeside.
But Merkel was told she couldn't golf with her husband on Saturdays or Wednesdays, because of club policy. Furthermore, she was informed that on Sundays, unless her husband was available to play with her, she couldn't tee off until after 11 a.m.
Merkel insists that the club has been less than accommodating, not because she's lacking in golf skills but because she's a woman.
"We should have the same privileges that a male member has," Merkel said, adding, "It doesn't matter whether you're a good golfer or not, I should have the same rights they do."
Her husband, Reggie Lee, agrees.
"It's distressing to me that in this day and age, that a club like Lakeside exists where it discriminates against women and treats them like second-class citizens," said Lee.
Which is why Merkel and Lee have filed a civil rights lawsuit against Lakeside Golf Club, alleging that it discriminates against women by denying them membership, barring their entry to certain lounges and restricting their tee times.
Lakeside, one of Hollywood's most recognized and respected golf courses, is renowned for its impressive and ultra-exclusive membership roster. That same directory now faces intense scrutiny in light of Merkel and Lee's accusations that the club refuses to grant regular membership to women.
Merkel claims that as a woman, she is limited to "special" membership status, which prohibits her from serving on the club's board, holding equity or playing whenever the course is open. Those privileges are reserved for the club's regular or life members, all of whom are men, said Merkel's attorney, Leo J. Terrell.
All-male clubs are not as common as they used to be, but they're certainly not unheard of in the golf world. The Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, which hosts the Masters Tournament, has been criticized in recent years for its strict no-female-members policy.
According to Alfred P. Carlton Jr., a former president of the American Bar Association and an expert in corporate law, most golf clubs are not subject to discrimination lawsuits because state and federal guidelines that hold public organizations accountable for discriminatory practices do not apply to privately run associations.
"These are private organizations, and as long as they are not accepting public subsidy or tax-exempt status, their internal rules are subject to membership approval alone," said Carlton.
However, a key distinction in the Lakeside case is California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition, and it applies to all business establishments in the state, including nonprofit organizations, such as the Lakeside Golf Club.