By Ronnie Miles, Director of Advocacy, NGCOA
One year ago this month, the golf industry, like many others in the service industry, came to a halt. Governors around the country issued executive orders that closed many of our golf facilities. NGCOA quickly recognized that public officials needed to be better informed about how playing golf was one of the safest outdoor recreation activities that the public could participate in. We developed the industry-first tool operators could use to educate their public officials that golf courses could re-open and minimize the virus’s spread if followed. The program was entitled Park & Play, a set of health industry-reviewed operations protocols.
By applying these protocols, many facilities could reopen. To further help the industry reopen our facilities, the allied golf associations, led by the PGA, developed a CDC reviewed set of operations protocols that provided operators with operational protocols that would follow the various stages of their reopening process.
The industry did recover, at least the golf program element of our operations. As reported by the National Golf Foundation, our industry saw a record number of rounds played in 2020, which for the most part was after March closures. The losses incurred during this period were substantial. To help small businesses and their employees, the federal government established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program aimed to help small enterprises retain their workforce and cover some of their core business expenses until the economy could recover to a pre-Covid condition. For the first time, the golf industry was not excluded from participating in this federal loan program.
NGCOA became the industry-leading association educating owners and operators (members and non-members) of the program’s benefits. We provided numerous webinars, podcasts and developed a website dedicated to supporting this initiative—the high number of loans reflected this effort was well received. As of February 28, 2021, the golf industry has had 6,536 owners and operators participating in this program. Many of these represent multiple golf facilities. We have estimated that over 8,000 facilities have benefited from this program. These 6,536 facilities obtained PPP loans totaling over $886 million. Over 76% of these loans were less than $150K with less than ½ of 1% over $2M.
The PPP program’s significant objective was to retain workers instead of adding them to the roll of unemployed, thus paying them $600 a week plus whatever their state pays unemployed workers. The participating golf facilities reported the PPP loans they received enabled them to retain 152,694 workers. The average weekly state unemployment benefit was $425. This unique unemployment benefit was for up to 8 weeks. With the $886M in loans, the golf industry saved federal and state governments over $1.25 billion or a net savings of $366M. So it is safe to say investing in the golf industry was a good return on investment!
Where the industry would be today if we had not been able to participate in this program is a scary scenario to ponder. The bridge created by the PPP program is one that benefited the industry and the federal government. We know many of our clubs’ food and beverage programs remain impacted by executive orders and hopefully they will be able to participate in the latest federal grant program targeting the food and beverage industry entitled the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. More on that later!