National Golf Day was held May 1st in Washington DC. Nearly 300 participants gathered to advocate on behalf of the golf industry. I always come away feeling motivated, energized and instilled with a sense of pride that I have been able to “give back” in some small way to the game and profession that I revere and honor.
National Golf Day is the focus of a golf industry coalition group named “We Are Golf”. We Are Golf, created in 2009, is an advocacy initiative designed to communicate to Members of Congress and other federal policy makers the significant impact of golf on the nation’s economy and way of life. The WAG coalition group is comprised of American Society of Golf Course Architects, Club Management Association of America, First Tee, Golf Course Builders Association of America, Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America, Ladies Professional Golf Association, National Alliance for Accessible Golf, National Club Association, National Golf Course Owners Association, PGA of America, PGA Tour, United States Golf association, US Golf Manufacturers Council, and The World Golf Foundation. The ultimate objective is to ensure that laws and regulations impacting the golf industry are appropriate to a nearly $84 billion industry which impacts close to 2 million American jobs and generates nearly $4 billion in charitable giving annually. Golf sustains 2 million American jobs, with $55.6 billion annual wage income. One out of 75 jobs in the US is impacted by the golf industry. Golf contributes greatly to tax creation and tourism value.
The above paragraph is filled with facts and numbers… which are important. But, to be effective as an advocate, one MUST develop and nurture personal relationships with our policymakers and regulators. GCSAA does an outstanding job creating a Priority Issues Agenda with position papers and leave behinds that outline GCSAA’s focus. NGD gives us the opportunity to “tell” our stories directly to our assigned representatives in Congress. Remember that ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL. Your elected representatives recognize you as a constituent and a potential vote. They will listen to you! Nebraska Golf has a great story to tell!
This year, NGD began on Tuesday with a Community Service Project. Of the more than 200 volunteersw, a good majority of them were golf course superintendents. The CSP takes place on the National Mall extending from the Capitol to the Jefferson Memorial. Nearly 20 teams engaged in overseeding, mowing, aerification, GPS tree indexing, pruning, grooming walkways, irrigation installation and repair, sodding, and flower bed plantings. The National Park Service oversees the maintenance of the National Mall. It is estimated that this ½ day effort saves the National Park Service over $30,000.
Wednesday was “lobby day,” a day in which 245 meetings were scheduled with members of Congress. Visits are usually arranged in “teams”. The Nebraska delegation had four team members. It’s good to have team members who represent various interests within the golf industry. It’s also advantageous to have an experienced team member who knows how to navigate Capitol Hill.
Nebraska is unique in that it hosts a weekly “Nebraska Breakfast”. This is a 76-year-old tradition that is held every Wednesday in which all five of the Nebraska representatives attend. If pre-registered for the event, those Nebraskans are introduced and allowed to address the entire group which usually total about 100. I was honored to be recognized and share the mission of NGD and support “Nebraska Golf”. Later in the day I had scheduled meetings with all five Nebraska representatives. This year was especially exciting for the NGCSA when I was able to present each congressman with the recently published “Best Management Practices for Nebraska Golf Courses”. The Nebraska BMP document solidifies the NGCSA’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
Being able to attend NGD has been very rewarding. It will help you develop your interpersonal skills to effectively communicate and make yourself more visible, accessible, and knowledgeable. It will teach you to be more assertive and direct with your “asks”. It will teach you to be humble when rejected. And when successful, it will teach you to be fully engaged and invest the time to develop those relationships that lead to congressional access and be an influential voice.
Fifty-three years ago, when I was first introduced to golf, advocacy was not in my vocabulary. Water quality and water quantity debates were non-existent. Water was considered in-exhaustible. Nebraska NRD’s were created in 1972 with a primary focus on flood and erosion control and establishing tree shelter belts. Government disturbance and regulatory intervention was minimal. Times have changed! Government Agencies have been established to environmentally protect our natural resources and public health. This is a good thing! But big government sometimes “overreach” and have imposed their will upon small businesses without legitimate input from the producers and the scientific community. This is when advocacy needs to be part of the solution. Advocacy is a key component that will lead our industry into a healthy, viable, and sustainable future.
Written by: Bill Bieck, CGCS
Bieck, CGCS is a retired certified golf course superintendent and a 44 year member of GCSAA.