Current Issues

Contact Craig Kessler, Director of Governmental Affairs

What are the three most prominent issues currently affecting the golf sector?

  1. Service Tax – Defeated as a leaden trial balloon a few years ago, the notion of taxing services continues to percolate throughout the California body politic. The “Think Long Committee for California,” a group of some of the state’s most influential political and financial leaders, is preparing to launch a $20 million initiative campaign in November 2012 that would create a 5% tax on all services except health and education. It is packaged in conjunction with a lowering of the overall sales tax rate, a lowering of certain income tax rates and the creation of new middle class tax exemptions. Additionally, it would create mechanisms to guarantee that the roughly $10 billion new revenues generated by what the “Think Long Committee” calls a more “equitable and sustainable” tax structure be dedicated to funding education, local government, the pay down of current debt, and the creation of a “rainy day” reserve fund. Crafted in this manner, it promises to resonate with the electorate. But the impact of adding 5% to every golf transaction, whether at the local muni or the private country club, promises to be burdensome to a game already reeling in the current economy.
  2. Water – Mother Nature has been kind in recent months; reservoirs are full, and last year’s Sierra snowpack was bountiful. But we live in the arid Southwest, where drought is a recurring condition. Throw in ever increasing population, and the result is the need for permanent vigilance – not to mention a state mandated requirement to lower water usage no less than 20% by 2020. The golf industry must adapt, and adapt fast, or suffer. Just as Alice discovered in “Wonderland” that she had found a place where you must go faster and faster to get nowhere, the golf industry in California finds itself in a place where it must use less and less water just to keep its doors open.
  3. Decline – Golf’s popularity peaked in 1999 and has declined every year since, a decline exacerbated by the recent financial meltdown. Because so much of a golf course’s budget is composed of fixed and constantly rising water and energy expenditures, the industry does not have as many cost lowering tools in its arsenal as other suffering industries. Golf is an industry wholly dependent upon discretionary incomes and equities for its sustenance. A higher priced product in a market filled with persons whose pockets don’t go as deep as they used to – not exactly a recipe for success.

What can golfers do to help the health of the game?

Play more golf! Join a club – public or private. Those are the simple answers. There’s nothing wrong with the game that more rounds and more club memberships wouldn’t cure. But beyond that, avid golfers can track public policy decisions that affect the game. Should you get an “alert” through the SCGA or your golf club about a harmful bill in the legislature, a harmful environmental regulation before an agency or a lawsuit filed by a group bent on closing golf courses in favor of obscure flora and fauna, take a moment to respond to the appropriate local, state or federal officeholder.

Why does golf need a voice in the state’s legislative bodies and government agencies?

In the political realm, those not seated around the table are usually on the menu. It was no accident that when the previous Governor decided to broach the subject of service taxes, he targeted only a handful of activities, among them golf. They all had one thing in common – they were perceived as politically weak. Governor Schwarzenegger did us a favor though. The state’s major golf organizations understood that unless they coalesced around building a “California Alliance for Golf” (CAG) capable of providing a palpable Sacramento presence, the game would continue to get pummeled in the political arena. Whether Los Angeles Water & Power, the California Fish & Game Commission, or the State Legislature, we’re now getting recognized as a presence to be reckoned with – even getting seats around some of those tables.