Golf Course Market – Giving Golf 2023

   As seen in Golf Business November/December 2023   

By Scott Kauffman, Contributor, Golf Business

Every golf owner and operator in the business knows full well how their golf properties are used as influential vehicles for good in a variety of ways. Not the least of which is from a fundraising component.

Indeed, for as long as the game and business has seemingly existed, surrounding communities and philanthropic organizations have been the main beneficiary of golf’s long standing giving nature and, of course, through all those ubiquitous public and private club events and charity tournaments that annually appear on calendars from coast to coast.

At the recent National Golf Day events held in Washington, D.C. in May 2023, every major golf organization celebrated the game’s growing $101.7 billion economy and announced the industry’s annual charitable impact is now nearly $4.6 billion. 

To be sure, no golf entity raises more money for charities than the mighty PGA TOUR. For instance, the TOUR announced in January 2020 a record amount of $203.4 million in charitable giving was generated the previous year, pushing the all-time total past $3 billion. 

Perhaps what was more remarkable than crossing this $3 billion mark for the first time was the fact the milestone came just six years after the TOUR reached $2 billion in 2014 – which was nine years after the first billion was recorded in 2005. So the rate of these impressive billion-dollar incremental flows of charitable giving is occurring faster than ever before.

Not surprisingly, just as the TOUR’s tournament purses have grown by leaps in bounds in recent years, so has the charitable aspect of the business. Consider the fact it took 67 years for the TOUR to cross the $1 billion threshold, beginning with the 1938 Palm Beach Invitational – recognized for being the first event to have a charitable impact.

Of course, golf’s philanthropic roots dramatically affect society in more ways than just monetarily. The First Tee is perhaps one of the industry’s most successful youth-oriented initiatives that not only makes the game more accessible but helps empower future generations with life and social skills the unique game affords so many.

Meanwhile, the National Golf Course Owners Association is proud to be a prominent change agent as it relates to growing the game and industry’s minority footprint. For instance, the NGCOA hosted an industry-first event in 2021 – the Lead Golf Together (LGT) Summit, designed as an opportunity for the leaders of golf’s allied organizations to specifically address the pronounced lack of diversity on executive teams and governing boards throughout the sport and industry. The NGCOA was also the first of golf’s allied organizations to sponsor the inaugural African American Golf Expo and Forum in 2021.

But back to the lifeblood of many course operations –– charity tournaments –– the question that begs to be asked is whether the 12 million-plus participants that annually take part in more than 143,000 fundraising events are still doing their part to give back despite a fragile economy and out-of-control inflation in the past couple years. 

If the Giving USA Foundation’s latest June 2023 report is any indication, America’s overall generosity didn’t wane one bit in 2022. Did last year’s giving reach the same record highs the Foundation saw in 2020 and 2021? No. 

But donors still overcame stock market volatility, dramatic spikes in inflation and other economic and global concerns to give almost $500 billion. 

“Despite uncertain economic times, Americans demonstrated how essential they view the nonprofit sector and its ability to solve big problems—by still giving nearly half a trillion dollars in 2022,” said Josh Birkholtz, Chair of Giving USA Foundation.

By comparison, in 2020 and 2021, the pandemic, economic crisis and racial justice issues combined to galvanize givers, leading to the two best years on record for charitable giving. In 2021, giving surpassed $500 billion for the first time. 

Then, Americans showed up once again in 2022, proving whenever there’s a crisis or need, they rise to the occasion. Just as golf owners and operators have been doing for generations, using their facilities to drive these causes as much as any other business in America.

This article was featured in the November/December edition of Golf Business Magazine.

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