News & Opinion

With your help, golf’s voice can be heard in D.C.

WASHINGTON – Call Congress.

That would be a great follow-up to the efforts made Wednesday by the allied organizations during the 10th National Golf Day on Capitol Hill.

From its roots as a lobbying initiative to inform legislators about golf’s economic impact, National Golf Day has evolved beyond mere education to focus on issues.

Among the main initiatives:

  • Waters of the United States: Known as WOTUS, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Water Rule would expand the definition of clean water. A body of water as small as a pothole – including ponds, lakes and streams on golf courses – would fall under the expanded rule. President Donald Trump issued an executive order to review the proposal.
  • H2B visa program: It provides temporary non-agricultural workers to golf course and vacation venues in the U.S.
  • PHIT Act: It allows for the use of pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical-activity expenses, which was the main focus in this year’s trip to the capital, according to Steve Mona, the head of Golf 20/20. 

The goal was “to continue the process that we’ve been undertaking for the last 10 years, to educate members of Congress and their key staffs about the collective impact of the golf industry,” Mona said.  “Specifically, we want to continue the efforts that we’ve been undertaking around communicating the economic impact of golf, the charitable impact, the health-and-wellness benefits, the accessibility of the game and the environmental benefits.”
Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s executive director, contends that golf’s perception needs some help with Congress. If he had one wish, Davis said that it would be for golf to be better understood by Congress and its constituents.

Davis said his focus was “making sure leaders in this country understand the good of golf as opposed to some of the perception, particularly to non-golfers. It’s always been perceived that it’s this rich, white, male sport that’s not accessible, that’s only played behind a fenced golf course, and it’s just not the case. When these Congresspersons hear about the economic impact, they literally say, ‘You have to be kidding.’ It’s a deer-in-the-headlight look.”

The numbers are eye-opening, from the size of the U.S. golf industry ($68.8 billion) to total wage income ($55.6 billion) to number of jobs (about 2 million), according to industry research. As for the health benefits, walking 18 holes equates to a 3½-mile run and burns up to 2,000 calories.

Golf also serves as an economic driver in many states: California ($13.1 billion), Florida ($11 billion), Texas ($6.3 billion), New York ($5.3 billion) and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois ($4.8 billion each), the industry says.

With solid numbers in their back pockets, golf seems to have gotten the attention of Congress.

“I think Congress now looks forward to seeing it (golf industry) come here,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “Now we can take it to the next level.”

That next level likely will be discussion of WOTUS, the H2B visa and the PHIT Act.

“We’ve seen a change in administration, so we see very business-savvy-type individuals in the administration with Mr. Trump, and they are everything about empowering businesses and empowering individuals,” Gosar said. “Looking at what actually hurts businesses, that’s the regulatory state.”

Gosar called WOTUS a huge governmental overreach and predicted that it would not be implemented. His office was drafting legislation to prevent similar actions.

“I think there are more opportunities now with the Senate still in (Republican) control and the president being Republican,” said Gosar, pointing to the H2B visa program and the PHIT Act. “It will have to start in the House. We know we are going to have a farm bill coming up here, and that actually breeds that conversation in regard to visa, immigration and that kind of application.”

These issues could save money for golf facilities, create better services and possibly provide consumers with tax breaks for playing golf.

If you want your voice heard, call your congressional representative and let him or her know that golfers’ interests should be considered in the legislative process.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli