National Golf Day was held last week in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the American Golf Industry Coalition, this most worthwhile event gathers leaders from within the golf industry to visit the offices of their US Senators and Representatives to advocate on behalf of the golf industry on issues of relevance. I was privileged to work within a group of other Pennsylvanians, including representatives of the Golf Association of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, The International Association of Golf Administrators, a club manager, a course owner and past president of NGCOA, and a municipal course superintendent.
We heard remarks from a renowned political consultant and two house members, one of whom recently revived the “Golf Caucus” in the House of Representatives.
Many perceive golf as a game for the elite and its many virtues for the broader population often go untold. As those of us in the industry know, golf courses do a great job of preserving and protecting the environment by preserving green space, filtering water, controlling runoff and providing a habitat for wildlife. Golf also has a dramatic impact on the economy, being responsible for $226.1 billion in direct and indirect economic impact – and the size of the golf economy is $102 billion, nationally. 25.6 million people play golf. 2+/- million jobs are in the golf industry and generating wages of $80.1 billion. Golf also generates $4.6 billion in charitable giving.
Golf is also healthy, with an 18-hole round walking burning up to 2,000 calories and 1,300 in a cart. 95% of respondents surveyed reported increased mental well-being after playing golf.
Those of us who participated yesterday promoted legislation on four (4) issues:
Believe it or not, the IRS tax code updated in 1986 renders the U.S. golf industry as disqualified and unworthy of various forms of disaster relief and economic stimulus programs that are available to many other businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and attractions. Specifically, section 144(c)(6)(B) of the IRS Code says “No portion of the proceeds of such issue is to be used to provide any private or commercial golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, racetrack or other facility used for gambling, or any store the principal business of which is the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off premises.” Somehow, golf became categorized as a sinful activity. Doesn’t make much sense to me. Hopefully, we made some progress in getting golf off the “sin list."
The 2023 Farm Bill, as it relates to golf is about promoting turfgrass research and we promoted the idea of $20 million annual funding to develop turfgrass that would use less water, resist heat and pests more effectively and reduce chemical use. We also advocated for funding for studying the various impacts of turfgrass on the environment and economy.
As many know golf courses, both inside and out, use migrant, temporary labor from other countries. Currently, H-2B visas are limited to an mount that is woefully insufficient, especially during a period of historically low unemployment (3.7%) and the continued debate on immigration. There simply aren’t enough Americans for the jobs seeking laborers. We advocated for the expansion of the H-2B program.
The PHIT Act promotes the idea that our health care dollars are better spent on prevention than treatment. This would allow the use of PRE-TAX dollars in Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA’s) for a variety of healthy activities such as sports league fees, exercise classes, equipment purchases, health club membership dues and yes, golf fees. Wouldn’t you rather spend your health dollars on something fun?
I encourage everyone to write your senators and congressmen to support these initiatives which seem to make sense regardless of one’s political persuasion. These bills make sense and while the golf industry is most certainly a “special interest group”, there’s no doubt that the benefits go well beyond our “box”.