A few months ago, NGCOA’s CEO Jay Karen said the industry needs to stay alert and connected to all levels of government, so that when the day of adverse legislation comes, the industry has the data, narrative and relationships to properly defend golf.
Golf Business decided to delve into the topic of advocacy by talking with Andrew Yeast, Director of Industry Engagement at the American Golf Industry Coalition (AGIC), an organization that promotes and advocates for the sport’s collective interests.
Yeast says his best advice for course owners/operators to advocate in their respective cities is to realize that every golf course has a great story to tell.
“It’s important to share those stories with policy makers so they understand why golf is important to their community and their constituents,” Yeast says. “Policy makers also have a duty to listen to their constituents. Reaching out to their offices to establish a connection is a great place to start. Regardless if there are any issues of concern to address, creating a dialogue with these offices can serve as an asset should adverse legislation be introduced.”
Karen also has said that land-rich businesses like golf courses will have bigger targets on their backs for increased government intervention in areas like water access, environment, taxation and more.
Yeast agrees and adds that the target appears because officials misunderstand the value of golf to their communities.
“The economic benefits are clear … however, officials are not as readily informed on how the sport serves as a health benefit to the more than 25 million players, the tireless work our industry undertakes to be a leader in environmental and sustainability efforts, and how our courses and facilities are community centers where people gather for charity events, weddings and socializing.”
While Golf Business had Yeast’s ear, we decided to ask him a few more questions.
Q. What specific golf-related issues are appearing in 2023 around the country in state legislatures?
A.Y. The most common issues relate to water usage, land usage, pesticide treatment and state minimum wage laws.
Q. And what issues are capturing federal lawmakers’ attention?
A.Y. There is an annual fight on H-2B returning worker visas and anything related to labor. Legislatively we don’t expect a lot of bills moving in Congress. However, we expect the administration to be active on the regulatory front. We’re especially awaiting the final rule on the treatment of independent contractors, which the AGIC, along with the many groups, opposed the proposed rule.
Q. If you were a golf course owner/operator, what legislative/regulatory issue in 2023 would concern you the most and why?
A.Y. I would pay close attention to how state legislatures and local officials are addressing the issues impacting the majority of their constituents. These will vary widely from locale to locale but understanding how your local jurisdiction operates is vital.
Q. Can you share an example of AGIC’s advocacy efforts trickling down to positively impact courses?
A.Y. At the start of the pandemic, the AGIC contacted all 50 governors’ offices to keep golf courses open, positioned as an activity that could be enjoyed safely. As a result, there was a record number of rounds played in 2020 and 2021.
Also, for years, the AGIC, along with other industry associations, has advocated for an increase to the H-2B visa cap. Capped yearly at 66,000, this visa applies to seasonal hospitality workers who are vital to the seasonal golf business. The cap is often exceeded within two weeks of opening. At the end of last year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the H-2B visa cap would be increased to nearly 131,000 for the fiscal year of 2023. This too likely will be exceeded, but we are encouraged to see DHS allowing more qualified workers to return.
Q. Is AGIC in charge of National Golf Day? If so, how can course owners/operators learn more about it for 2023?
A.Y. We are. 2023 will mark the 15th anniversary of National Golf Day and we will return in person in Washington, D.C., after two years of a virtual event. To participate, visit golfcoalition.org/nationalgolfday2023.
NOTE: Some of Mr. Yeast’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.