A Model for Others
Q&A with CEO Mike Hughes about the recently completed golf economic impact study in Virginia, the implications for your state and the industry as a whole.
An economic impact survey commissioned by the Virginia Golf Council and supported by Golf 20/20, the NGCOA and other allied associations revealed that the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of golf in the Commonwealth is $3.1 billion annually. The golf industry employs more than 40,000 Virginians and provides positive environmental impact in the state, according to the study conducted by SRI International.
Mike Hughes, chief executive officer of the NGCOA, joined representatives from the Commonwealth and industry leaders from the United States Golf Association, Golf 20/20, The PGA of America, LPGA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Club Managers Association of America in Richmond last month for the announcement. Afterwards, Hughes was asked his opinion of the study from an owner/operator perspective.
What is the big takeaway for owners from the Virginia study?
“It proves once again that golf is a very important economic component for most states. It’s a big employer, pays a significant amount of property and sales taxes, and adds substantially to the quality of life.”
Any surprises from the study?
“No big surprises to those of us in the golf industry, but it may have been a surprise to some people just how important golf is to Virginia, a state that’s not as well known as many others when it comes to golf’s role in the economy.”
What are the potential uses and benefits for golf course
owners and operators?
“These kinds of studies need to be done on a state by state basis, and we’re working with leaders in many states to help facilitate that. There are a number of benefits. In South Carolina, for example, a similar study was used to persuade state legislators to provide more funding for tourism advertising, specifically for golf. Owners were able to point to results from the study that showed that for every dollar the state spent there were 13 times that amount in positive economic impact. South Carolina owners also used survey results to support a piece of property tax legislation that proposed what we considered fairer treatment for golf courses. Owners were able to make the case that a change in their property tax would help them produce more positive economic results for the state. By the same token, there’s also a defensive use for this kind of information. You can use it to prevent legislation and regulation that could be detrimental to golf businesses. The key, of course, is having the empirical evidence to support your cause rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.”
Economic impact studies on this scale are generally quite expensive and require lots of work. Is this type of study within reach of most states?
“The Virginia study was developed as a model for other states. Essentially it creates a template that makes it feasible for other states to replicate, especially in states where the various components of the golf industry are working together, as they were in Virginia.”
What are the first steps to get started?
“Owners and operators need to come together as a group and then reach out to their PGA section and local superintendents association to create a group of stakeholders with a vested interest. Once they decide to pursue an economic impact study, we can help them make the right contacts.”
Can these types of studies really make a difference?
“Absolutely. But the key is activating the results. By itself, the study is just a document. If you let it sit on the shelf, it’s only going to be an expensive bookend. As much effort as you make to produce the report must be put into disseminating and promoting it, getting it in the hands of influencers and decision makers to make sure they get your message.”