May 17, 2017

Golf Digest: When Golf Goes to Washington

A golf course is not a massage parlor, hot-tub facility or tanning salon.

No one who has seen these respective establishments would ever confuse them, or worse yet, equate the former with the latter. And yet, since at least the early 1980s, the federal government and specifically the tax code has in fact done just that. There it is in Section 144, dealing with tax-exempt state and local bonds and what kinds of facilities are restricted from such funds. Specifically, the law of the land reads:

“No portion … is to be used to provide (including the provision of land for) any private or commercial golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, …”

This kind of mischaracterization, which also has appeared in federal disaster relief bills over the years, illustrates in a simple and direct way golf’s problem with those who govern the country and the decisions they make that impact the golf business: Golf quite simply cannot rest in getting its message right in the halls of government.

Last month’s National Golf Day, the annual industry surge on Washington, D.C., to spread the economic, environmental and charitable good news of golf, has done its best over the last decade to curb this lingering sentiment. And it’s done well. Inspired in fact by similar language that denied Katrina disaster relief specifically to golf courses by equating them with its ill-matched sin tax brethren, National Golf Day and its We Are Golf lobbying coalition have kept such language out of subsequent legislation, codes and policies on Capitol Hill.

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