2010 National Golf Day: Q&A with Jim Hinckley
Jim Hinckley is the CEO of Century Golf Partners, a multi-course ownership and management firm based in Dallas. As a member of the NGCOA board of directors, he helped represent the association at the 2010 National Golf Day.
After three years, National Golf Day seems to be taking a more proactive stance with lawmakers and policy influencers and getting more traction in Washington. What’s been the impetus?
The industry is working together for the first time, and I have to give the We Are Golf initiative a lot of the credit. You’re seeing the turf boundaries come down between the allied associations. Each association has its own issues, but they’re all realizing they need to come together to go after golf’s bigger issues. They’re pooling their resources and you’re starting to see the industry speak and move forward in one direction.
What is golf looking for from Washington?
That’s the same question several congressmen asked us when we were in Washington earlier this year to kick off the We Are Golf coalition at National Golf Day. First and foremost we wanted them to understand that golf is a $76 billion industry. We are mainly a group of small business owners who employ 2 million people in the golf industry. We told them we weren’t looking for a handout; we just wanted to be included versus excluded. They wanted to know what we meant by that, and we cited the relief legislation that was passed after Hurricane Katrina, when golf was lumped in with massage parlors and excluded from federal relief. They were shocked – they were not aware of how golf had been excluded.
What needs to happen before the story resonates even better?
Golf 20/20 is working on a PR and lobbying campaign, trying to get the right messages out, so people understand that golf employs 2 million people, is environmentally friendly and a tremendous charitable force. The “Faces of Golf” strategy, which is part of the We Are Golf program, is a good example. It humanizes the sport so people get to see golf as more than a sport played by rich athletes. The truth is that most golf is public golf and most rounds are played for about $22.
What evidence will you look for that proves to you that the message is getting through?
On the PR side, when we see a change in the tone of articles written about golf. Second, on the legislative side, and at a minimum, when golf is not excluded on stimulus or relief programs … and when we see Congress willing to take on our issues and start to work them through the committees.
From a multi-course operator’s perspective, where could legislative reform best benefit you and your peers?
We have several issues that are important to the sustainability of our industry. Water legislation, property tax relief and state and local sales tax are a few of the issues. We want to make sure golf is on a level playing field with other industries.
Are those benefits the independent owner/operator will benefit from as well?
Absolutely. What we’re working toward is just as meaningful to an individual golf course operator as it is to an MCO. An MCO might have fifty golf courses, but an individual owner probably has only one. That one course is their sole investment. So to the extent that Golf 20/20 can help player development or We Are Golf can have an impact on legislative issues, those things will be huge wins for every course owner.