CAG May Newsletter

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National Golf Foundation Sees Signs of Encouragement in Latest Annual Participation Report

Following the recent report that the golf industry drove $84.1 billion in economic activity in the United States in 2016, an increase of 22.1 percent since 2011, the National Golf Foundation offered more modestly encouraging numbers about the health of the game with Tuesday’s release of its annual Golf Industry Report.

In 2017, 23.8 million people played golf on a course, roughly the same number as the previous year. Participation off-course, in the form of play at facilities such as Topgolf or at facilities with on-screen simulators, though, rose 7 percent, to 21.7 million. The total number of golfers who played on-course or exclusively off-course settled at 32.1 million, slightly more than in 2016.

Of the 23.8 million on-course players, the NGF defined 19.5 million (roughly 95 percent) as “committed” golfers, individuals who say golf is one of several ways they like to spend their recreational time. That number was down from 20.1 million in 2016, the first time since 2011 that the industry had seen year-over-year growth. These golfers account for approximately 95 perent of all rounds played.

Breaking down participation by age, young adults (ages 18 to 34) accounted for 6.2 milion of the on-course golfers (or 26 percent). That total remains the same from 2016, “contradicting claims that the sport continues to lose millennial golfers” according to the NGF.

Meanwhile, the number of newcomers to the game continued a four-year increase, rising to 2.6 million. These beginners are a more diverse lot than the overall golf population in that 35 percent are women (compared to 24 percent overall), 26 percent are non-caucasian (18 percent overall) and 70 percent are under age 35 (37 percent overall).

While the number of overall golfers saw a small increase, rounds played for 2017 fell to 456 million from 469 million in 2016, a 2.7 percent decline. According to the NGF, that decrease “is consistent within average weather-related fluctation of 2 to 3 percent.” However, it was a lower number than was reported in 2014 (458 million) and 2015 (466 million).

The industry continued to see a retraction in golf facilities, with 205.5 courses closing in 2017 while 15.5 courses opened, a 1.5 percent net decline to 14,794 facilites. Renovation, rather than new construction, is the largest current source of U.S. golf course development activiating with roughly 1,100 course renovations taking place since 2006.

As for golf’s overall reach, that number was calculated at 97.6 million, a 3.2 percent increase from 2016, thanks to a rise in the number of people who watch and or read about golf, but don’t play, to 65.5 million.

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WE ARE GOLF Reports 22% Increase in U.S. Golf Economic Impact Ahead of National Golf Day

(ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.) – WE ARE GOLF – a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners – unveiled its new U.S. Golf Economy Report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. prior to tomorrow’s 11th annual National Golf Day.

Highlighting the study – conducted by TEConomy Partners – is $84.1 billion in activity directly driven by golf in 2016, a 22% rise from $68.8B in the 2011 report. The industry supported $191.9B in total annual activity, including 1.89 million jobs and $58.7B in wages and benefits.

Golf’s annual contributions to America’s economy also include:

– $34.4B in revenue from golf courses, clubs, resorts, driving ranges and other facilities (2.9% compound annual growth rate since 2011)

– $25.7B in tourism spending (4.6% CAGR)

– $7.2B in new home construction in golf communities (18.5% CAGR)

– $6B in sales of golf equipment, apparel and supplies (1.4% CAGR)

– $2.4B in professional tournaments, associations and player endorsements (3.16% CAGR)

– $1.9B in investment in existing golf facilities (4.6% CAGR)

Demonstrating golfers’ and businesses’ commitments to charity, $3.94B was raised in 2016 through tournaments and other activities.

“The many positive trends show how golf is vital to the prosperity of America’s economic and social well-being,” says Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation and administrator of WE ARE GOLF. “Increases in so many categories signify the health of golf has far-reaching influence across many sectors of the U.S. economy.”

The fourth report since 2000 to measure the game’s effect, research encompassed golf course operations, tourism, real estate, supplies, tournaments, associations, charitable events, capital investment and other commercial segments.

The report was announced in conjunction with National Golf Day, the industry’s pinnacle event of the year that brings leaders to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress, the Executive Branch and federal agencies to discuss golf’s social, economic and environmental benefits to society.

To join the conversation, visit the WE ARE GOLF social media hub. Use #NationalGolfDay and @wearegolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to support the industry and answer “why is golf more than a game to you?”

Find the full article here.

Created in 2010, WE ARE GOLF is an industry coalition that promotes the economic, charitable and environmental impact of golf, as well as the game’s health and wellness, affordability and accessibility, to Members of Congress, the Executive Branch and regulatory agencies. The goal of WE ARE GOLF is to ensure laws and regulations are fair and appropriate to an industry that in 2016 generated $84.1 billion in economic impact, 1.89 million jobs and $3.94 in charity fundraising.

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CAG April Newsletter

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The Coachella Valley Must Act to Maintain Local Control of Water Policy

By: Craig Kessler, Special to The Desert Sun

Perception is reality in politics, never more so than when the subject is water.

If the Coachella Valley learned nothing else from the last statewide drought crisis it was this: The facts of the matter didn’t matter much when it came to how Sacramento treated the valley.

Those who live, work, farm and play golf in the valley understand that the desert’s water supply is secured by sources almost entirely separate from the State Water Project and unrelated to seasonal rains and snows. It is secured by an aquifer that is among the richest and deepest in the world, as well as federally guaranteed allocations from the Colorado River.

Unlike many of California’s other groundwater basins, particularly those in the Central Valley and along the Central Coast, the aquifer that sits beneath the Coachella Valley has been managed with long-term sustainability in mind for generations, and it is ahead of the Coachella Valley Water Management Plan’s self-imposed 2020 deadline for stasis.

Of course, none of this prevented the Coachella Valley from being lumped in with the urban water districts that really are dependent upon seasonal rains and the State Water Project when it came time to impose 36 percent cutbacks. And it’s not going to matter with respect to the features of the recent “emergency” that are in the process of being made permanent, nor is it going to matter when the next “emergency” is tolled by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Whether the subject is the details of the Groundwater Management Act, mandatory conservation protocols, or permissible landscape palettes, the order of California’s political day is centralization of authority in Sacramento. It’s not always direct authority. It’s more often the threat of substituting state control for local control when the state determines that the locality has failed to meet the state’s minimum standards as prescribed by separate regulation or legislation.

Thus, it is very much in the interest of everyone who lives, works, farms or plays golf in the valley to prevent that substitution. Complaining about the unfairness of it won’t prevent it. The desert’s fate is inextricably intertwined with the rest of the state, and the rest of the state is in a world of hurt.

As much as we would like to think that it’s the bone dry years that are the exception, the facts say otherwise. It’s the wet winter that’s the exception. So is what we used to call the normal winter.

One credible scientific study after another is revealing that the past 130 years have been among the wettest and most stable in California history. Those same studies are revealing that droughts of 10 and 20 years have been common in the last millennium, and a couple of them have lasted multiple generations.

In short, California has constructed an infrastructure to support 40 million souls and the sixth-largest economy in the world based upon rain and snow expectations that we are now discovering were anything but normative. The fact that this has nothing to do with the Coachella Valley is irrelevant. Coming to terms with that contradiction, unfair though it may be, is going to be key to keeping a measure of local control over water management here in the Coachella Valley.

Craig Kessler is government affairs director for the Southern California Golf Association and the chair of the CVWD Golf and Water Task Force. Email him at

CAG February Newsletter

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New clubs for high school golfers the aim of SCPGA program

By: Larry Bohannan, The Desert Sun

The way David Curtis sees it, members of the PGA of America have one big job: getting more people to play golf.

“That’s what our job is as a PGA pro, to grow the game,” said Curtis, a teaching pro at Westin Mission Hills Resort and the head coach of the Rancho Mirage High School girls’ golf team. “That’s our No. 1 job. If we can put clubs in girls’ hands, we’ll have jobs in the future.”

The desire to have more junior golfers with golf clubs in their hands was one reason Curtis contacted the Southern California PGA to inquire about the SCPGA Foundation’s Clubs for Youth program. That program puts new sets of clubs in the hands of high school golfers, and the result of Curtis’ inquiry to the program was six new sets of clubs for girls at Rancho Mirage, one set for a girl at Desert Hot Springs High School and six sets of clubs for boys at Desert Hot Springs.

“Any help that we can get for him and his girls, helping to sustain the game, having your own set of clubs is obviously important,” said Matt Gilson, foundation manager for the SCPGA Foundation.

The basis of the program is the foundation gives the clubs to the player, not the school. So the player has his or her own clubs during the off-season to use during play or practice, and then the player graduates, they keep the clubs. The new clubs come with a golf bag and are what is considered in golf a starter’s set. That means rather than a full set of 14 clubs, the set comes with 10 clubs, including a driver, a putter and various irons, woods or hybrids.

The clubs are provided by Wilson Staff, with the program underwritten by supporters like Friends of Golf, DevTo Support Foundation, American Junior Golf Association, Wilshire Country Club, The Donald and Carole Chaiken Foundation, Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation and the LA84 Foundation.

“Really, when we started in April, we knew the focus was on the girls side of things. The equipment on their side was really poor, and there wasn’t much motivation after the end of the season. For a lot of players, and this is especially true for girls, they are borrowing clubs from their dads or brothers,” Gilson said. “A lot of the clubs don’t fit them, and eventually the girls just have no interest in the game after the season is over.”

Foundation statistics state that 44 percent of high school girls’ golfers either share or borrow equipment to play with in matches.

Curtis knows first-hand the difficulty for some players in getting clubs. Rancho Mirage may have the image of a well-off community with high-end private country clubs, but Curtis points out many of the school’s students come from Cathedral City, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. Curtis was searching barrels of old clubs at places like The First Tee of the Coachella Valley in Palm Desert, Goodwill and thrift stores and buying clubs at $3 each to give to his players.

“Last year I saw this Clubs Fore Youth program,” he said. “Since I’m part of the PGA, the SCPGA, I’m an apprentice, I e-mailed Matt and said, ‘Hey, how, can I get some clubs for my girls?’.”

The donation to Rancho Mirage, three to players who are graduating this year and three to players who will return to the program next fall, were among the first sets donated in 2018. Gilson said the foundation donated 188 sets to players at 29 Southern California schools in 2017, but he hopes to donate at least 100 sets in the first two months of 2018. In January alone, the foundation gave clubs not only to the two desert high schools but also to schools from Palmdale to San Diego.

While Curtis was happy to have clubs for his players, he also recognized that Desert Hot Springs was a school that could benefit from the program. Curtis contacted first-year Desert Hot Springs boys coach Robert Jensen.

“David shot me an e-mail in October, letting me know of the program,” Jensen said. “The SCPGA people came out and gave a wonderful speech, talked about the donors, the sponsors they work with and gave the clubs to the kids.”

Having their own clubs might help keep kids at Desert Hot Springs excited beyond the school golf season, said Jensen, a physical education teacher at the school.

“It’s a beautiful program. You know how things are in Desert Hot Springs. It’s very hard to keep kids in sports, especially if they are not as successful as other schools,” Jensen said. “But now we have six boys who are continuously playing because they have their own clubs, although they are well behind the learning curve in learning golf compared to kids at other schools around here.”

Find the article full article here.

CAG January Newsletter

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CAG December Newsletter

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Coastal Watchdog Gives After-the-Fact OK to Bay Area Seawall

By: MATTHEW RENDA, Courthouse News

BODEGA BAY, Calif. (CN) – The construction of a seawall and its contribution to beach erosion took center stage at the California Coastal Commission’s monthly meeting Wednesday, in the form of a debate between those looking to prevent flooding of a public golf course and those who say seawalls damage beaches and are too little, too late in the face of climate change.

Supporters of a seawall in the Northern California beach town of Pacifica say “coastal armoring” is needed to stop flooding of a golf course and surrounding neighborhoods.

Since the seawall has already been built, the coastal commission voted 9-3 Wednesday to give the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department an after-the-fact permit. But the decision also allows the city department to further armor the existing earthen berm, located directly seaward to Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica.

The after-the-fact aspect of the approval outraged environmentalists, who accused the city department of misrepresenting the construction project as minor. Instead, they say the recreation department pretended to make only minor repairs to the earthen berm in 2013, but actually undertook a massive construction project aimed at shoring up the berm with rocks and other materials – a controversial practice called coastal armoring.

“Fifty thousand pounds of rock was illegally installed,” said Neal Desai, director of field operations for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Anything short of a cease-and-desist order is a celebration of illegal armoring or seawalls at the expense of low cost recreation and coastal access.”

Desai’s words come as an advocate for national parks, including the Golden Gate Recreation Area near the golf course. Several golfing buffs attended the meeting and attested not only to the historic value of the course, designed and built in 1932, but also relative low cost that allows the masses to play a coastal course typically reserved for the well-heeled.

Several residents of the area also attended the meeting, making the case that neighborhoods adjacent to the course and seawall would likely be routinely flooded during winter storms if the parks department didn’t move forward with the coastal armoring.

“In our view, there is a 100 percent certainty that flooding would occur,” said Dan Carl, a member of coastal commission staff that recommended the board approve the permit.

Further complicating the issue, two of California’s most endangered species – the San Francisco garter snake and the red-legged frog – occupy the Laguna Salada wetlands directly inland from the course’s back nine.

Spencer Potter, with the recreation department, said saltwater intrusion into the wetlands might kill the population of red-legged frog, which in turn would drastically reduce a food source for the endangered snake, if the seawall isn’t finished.

“There are a variety of issues with that approach, including whether you could even do that,” Potter said, alluding to potential violations of the Endangered Species Act.

This ultimately forced the hand of commissioners, though several expressed concerns that the 20-year permit for the seawall is only a temporary fix.

“We have published a sea-level rise plan that demonstrates and proves that seawalls and armoring are anathema to what we are trying to do here,” said Commissioner Mark Vargas. “We are trying to fool Mother Nature.”

Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh agreed, saying that the length of the permit should be reduced and the commission should revisit the issue in five years.

“I am concerned about the message we are sending when we see four years of unpermitted action and then award them with a permit,” she said.

Pacifica, a small coastal town located in San Mateo County immediately south of San Francisco, was hit hard by a series of storms this past winter that ultimately broke century-old precipitation records. In some areas, the coastal erosion was so pronounced that apartment complexes had to be evacuated after city and county officials deemed the structures prone to collapse.

Carole Groom, a commissioner who also sits on the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, said the golf course does provide economic vitality to a community still recovering from the effects of a tough winter.

“I hate to disagree with the strong environmental groups,” she said. “But the golf course is an important part of the town economy and the seawall is integral to the survival of those neighborhoods.”

Find the full article here.

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