By Ronnie Miles
As I write this month’s advocacy message at the end of March, I find it difficult not to discuss how the coronavirus has overtaken our thought process. While I’m unsure where our country will be by the time you read this, I am sure that it is very different from when I wrote my last article.
Yes, there remain many issues that golf course owners and operators face on a daily basis, but COVID-19 has without a doubt reshuffled these priorities. We do not know when every golf course will reopen. We don’t know if all courses will be able to reopen, but for those that were fortunate enough to withstand the unprecedented challenges, we say congratulations!
As an advocate for our owners and operators, working for the National Golf Course Owners Association has afforded me a closer look at, as they say, “how the sausage is made.” Nothing impacts our owners and operators more than the laws and regulations created with the intent to protect the local, state and federal interests, financial integrity, environmental protection and fair labor practices.
One such regulation that has for many years handicapped our industry is something we have often referred to as the “Sin List.” For the last few years, We Are Golf has been working to educate our legislators in Washington on how this regulation unfairly harms our industry, especially in times of disasters.
I am very proud to acknowledge that my boss, Jay Karen, NGCOA CEO, long before the coronavirus came into play, made it his personal goal to have this outdated rule removed from Internal Revenue Service regulations. He convinced other members of the We Are Golf board that this is so important it must always be at the top of our lobbying issues list.
On March 1, 2020, President Donald Trump proclaimed that the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency. The NGCOA knew that if the “Sin List” was included in any disaster relief funding, then golf course owners would again be left to fend for themselves. Jay immediately engaged all members of the We Are Golf coalition and all their lobbyists from the golf industry to champion this concern to ensure the “Sin List” was not included in any funding bills. I do hate to think about how we could survive should this have happened. It would have surely caused more golf course closures than we saw around 2008.
As we all know by now, these efforts were successful. While the “Sin List” remains in the IRS regulations, we remain hopeful that our efforts to have it permanently removed one day will be successful.
Another positive outcome, we believe, as a result of the many calls and emails from you, our local, state and federal elected officials now realize how important our industry is to the health and economic impact of our communities. COVID-19 will impact our industry for a long time, but as the health professional community and elected officials realize the importance of giving citizens access to outdoor parks and recreational facilities — public and private — as a safe socially distancing outlet, our tee sheets should again be full!