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Keep ‘real public golfer’ in mind

It's important to support the golf business (my son is part of it), and the tax laws affecting it are certainly important. But it is not just the business exemptions that impact courses (“Golf will take big hit with tax reform,” Jan. 12, Golf as an industry needs to do a better job of educating government as to who really plays golf, the numbers of jobs provided, financial impact on the local community and environmental impact. 

Many golfers play at municipal or municipal-like courses, for modest green fees. These courses will be unaffected by the business tax issue but do face problems concerning local property taxes, environmental regulations and water issues. A better understanding by Congress, state legislatures and local government bodies as to who really plays golf – voters such as Joe Six-Pack, not just rich white guys in ugly pants waving their club ties at one another – and the financial and environmental benefits to the local community. On the environmental issue, a lot has changed in course maintenance, but many still believe that courses hurt the environment rather than being a benefit. 

The courses most likely to be affected by the deduction loss are private clubs already on shaky financial ground and public-access courses “providing a private-club experience,” with the associated high green fees in similar situations. While I wish them well and hope they are able to lobby successfully, the larger issues that affect all of golf are more important.

Golf as an entity and a business must do a better job of educating government as to who and what they are. I would suggest that they should start by figuring it out themselves. Way too much of what's printed in golf magazines, posted in blogs and newsletters and even picked up on by the rest of the media has nothing to do with the majority of golfers who are out there on inexpensive courses, maybe even in – gasp! – jeans and a T-shirt. They are golf, not Winged Foot, Pebble Beach or your local $100 green-fee “public access” course.

I believe part of the problem is that the people responsible for doing this at the highest levels (USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and state golf organizations) belong to private clubs and/or play those expensive public-access courses. They might wax nostalgic about their youthful days at the muni, but they no longer play there. As politicians forget what it was like to be just a citizen, they have forgotten what it's like to be a real public golfer. 

Blaine Walker
St. Paul, Minn.


Golf’s great divide

Once again, this article shows that golf is primarily for the wealthy (“Golf will take big hit with tax reform,” Jan. 12, It reminds me of the season-ticket-holder seats owned by corporations or wealthy individuals that sit empty during a very important sports event. Most of those people couldn’t care less about these seats and have no interest in any sport. It is not these people who will help to grow the sport.

Good for golf? Nonsense. None of the governing bodies of professional golf, course owners and the golf industry itself, really, give a hoot about what is good for golf. Rather, they are simply concerned about their bottom line.

There are very few grass-roots golfers who care much about a businessman being able to write off a round of golf and dinner and drinks for a group of his customers. Attention is given only to a very small portion of those who enjoy golf. Accordingly, I understand that you would never consider publishing this in Morning Read so as not to upset Big Money.

Ron Yujuico
Euless, Texas


A taxing blow to the game

I agree with Ted Bishop. This loss of deductibility will further damage the business of golf.

I have long argued that the elimination of the dues deduction was a stake in the heart to many middle-level private clubs, but until Ted’s article it seemed no one agreed with me. Small consolation.

The PGA Tour had Jack Nicklaus and Davis Love III lobby to save its non-profit status. It looks like no came to save the day for golf course owners and operators. 

Tom Fagerli
Yadkinville, N.C.


Tax change is a good start

I wish they would prevent all entertainment write-offs, whether dinners or sporting events (golf, football, baseball, etc.). Allow write-offs only for R&D/capital improvements.

If companies get a positive return on investment from these activities, they will continue to participate. If entertaining costs produce higher sales, then it is a positive practice.

You wonder why the ticket prices at football games are exorbitant: management continues to sign mega contracts, realizing that they have big business that can write off a significant portion of costs to attend games. This allows management to raise ticket, food, merchandise and parking prices. The average family must take a loan out to watch a live game today.  

Let's stop pumping up businesses with these entertainment write-offs. Provide a good experience for a reasonable price, and a business will survive. If businesses do not, they will have to adjust their practices or cease operations.

Bill Martin
Quitman, Texas


Wrong prescription for success

While I completely understand the golf industry's desire to keep the 50-percent tax deduction, please keep in mind the big picture. Hundreds of industries have relied on tax breaks to encourage businesses to utilize their services.

Every time a big company takes such a tax write-off, it is allowing that organization to reduce its tax burden and court other, usually relatively wealthy individuals, to influence them to buy its products or use its services. Smaller businesses simply can't afford the country-club memberships as marketing tools.

This is an example of cronyism, using the tax system to help wealthy businesses compete at the expense of both the taxpayers and smaller businesses.

You gave an example of pharmaceutical companies using golf outings to woo physicians. As a physician and golfer, I can assure you that such outings also have a significant ethical problem, of physicians being given perks to prescribe expensive new medications which frequently have no superior medical benefit, but make the pharmaceutical company billions of dollars. The tax deduction is subsidizing the system of outrageously expensive drugs.

Let all businesses make their marketing decisions without the benefit of largesse from the taxpayers. They can afford it, and we might just see some real competition in the professional-sports arena, maybe even eventually reducing prices of sports events so that families can go to a baseball or basketball game again.

We have ways of growing golf, and they're showing promise already, bringing more young people and women into the game. We will support our golf courses.

Robin Dea
Vancouver, Wash.


Winning formula for golf

For the pros, power and distance is the game today (“The death of finesse: It’s a different game,” Jan. 9, High-tech clubs and a hot ball will never go backward. Why don’t we just embrace that concept and forget about turning back the clock?

The big mistake has been altering the setup and distance on the courses to accommodate this technology. Golf was meant to be a game of skill, both mental and physical. Golf was meant to be played by men, women and children, not just world-class athletes.

Here is a novel idea: let the pro play courses at 7,000 yards, with fairway widths of 20 or 30 yards, 2-inch rough, firm greens with green speeds of about 10 on the Stimpmeter. That used to be a good setup for a great course. If that were the setup today, most superstar pros would pass (note Colonial and Harbour Town). If that were the setup for all courses, they would have no choice but to play.

Let the player adapt to the course, not the course to the player, and see what they shoot. Everyone wants to see the long ball. Let’s put accuracy, finesse, distance and direction control back in the formula as golf was intended.  

Jerry Adams
The Woodlands, Texas


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