National Golf Day was just held in Washington, DC and on dozens of video conferences across the nation. It is the annual day when the golf industry flexes its collective muscles on Capitol Hill, where industry leaders connect with Senators and Congressmen to update them on the impact of golf and solicit their support on issues that impact the success and survival of their communities.
The day originated when a congressman suggested that certain businesses should not get relief from Hurricane Katrina, singling out “gun stores, liquor stores, brothels and golf courses” among the undeserving. Since that reputational wake-up call, the golf industry has organized its message and marshaled resources to ensure that national issues appear on the radar of elected federal officials once a year. Among the issues discussed are land use, water use, tax deductions, credit card merchant rights and more.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a national issue that is also of interest in the golf industry. DEI has gone from an aspirational discussion to a necessity for high-functioning organizations, encompassing issues of corporate culture, recruitment and employee retention, and market growth.
During the week of National Golf Day, a study was released on the golf industry, called Workplace Inclusion in the Golf Industry. The study was commissioned by the American Golf Industry Coalition, the latest moniker for the umbrella organization of golf’s governing bodies that includes the NGCOA.
The study surveyed over 2,300 individuals across 35 organizations. There were some encouraging findings. 91% agree that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion should be treated as high priorities in their organization. 93% of respondents had favorable responses when asked about inclusion, defined in this study by if they felt welcome, valued and connected to others at work.
But there were also some concerning numbers. For instance, 25% thought that their organization was focusing too much on DEI, showing that there is entrenched resistance; that resistance can in part be attributed to the demographic makeup of the survey group, which was 85% white, and 59% male. Only 60% of responders who were in positions of Director or higher felt that decisions about hiring are made in a fair manner, a chilling number for those seeking advancement in the industry or for those who consider entering the industry.
One of the more eye-opening numbers was that just 2% of the survey group identified as LGBTQ+. So much of the focus of the DEI conversation in America and in golf has focused on race and gender; the bias and barriers faced by the LBGTQ+ community in golf have been overlooked, leaving a large and talented community on the outside looking in.
I feel the industry is to be commended for seeking answers through self-examination. The study reveals a number of truths about the state of golf as a business, a sport and a reflection of society and culture. Some of the answers were not surprising and others were sobering if not shocking. But real progress is made when the information gathered is used to make meaningful change that results in a game and industry that is truly a reflection of the ideals to which it aspires.