COVID Pandemic Relief

The game of golf remains a crucial outlet for the public during a global health pandemic. As Congress considers coronavirus relief for small businesses in response to COVID-19, GCSAA supports specific priorities in its continued response to the coronavirus pandemic and stimulus for the economy. These specific priorities include:

  • Paycheck Protection Program: GCSAA urges Congress to allow 501(c)(7) membership clubs to be eligible to provide their workers with the same protections as other businesses. Many clubs and golf facilities are 501(c)(7) nonprofit entities and thus, have been ineligible for the PPP. These clubs employ hundreds of thousands of workers, including kitchen staff, servers, bartenders, and others who are disproportionately impacted by government-mandated closures of food and beverage operations. These employees should not be excluded from pandemic relief simply due to their employer’s IRS classification.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit: The ERTC was authorized as part of the CARES Act. This program allows employers to claim a credit against payroll taxes for up to 50 percent of the first $10,000 of eligible workers wages. GCSAA supports legislation that would increase the amount of wages eligible for the tax credit from 50 to 80 percent.
  • State and Local Aid: The federal government should provide adequate aid to state and local governments to help address budget shortfalls. Without these resources, local governments could be forced to enact sales and property tax hikes that would slow our nation’s recovery.

Golf facilities across the U.S. have been proactive and creative in implementing new protocols based on CDC guidelines and recommendations related to distancing and sanitation. Where allowed, golf has proven to be a reliable refuge for those seeking fresh air and recreation in a socially distant manner. As government bodies carefully consider the steps needed to maintain state economies, GCSAA urges government bodies to remember the many community benefits offered by golf courses, the opportunity golf facilities provide to the millions who enjoy the game, and the many new social distancing protocols put in place. GCSAA and the golf industry wants to serve as a reliable partner at all levels of government to respond to COVID-19 and any future pandemics.

A golf course is a living ecosystem requiring active management. Golf course superintendents cannot simply or quickly bring a course back to regular playing conditions after a period of total neglect. Even if a course must close for play, a minimum maintenance regimen must be ensured to maintain turf health until that facility may resume normal operations. Continued minimal golf course maintenance should be deemed essential and critical throughout a pandemic and government entities should endorse the Minimum Maintenance for Golf Courses During COVID-19 Outbreak developed by the GCSAA and United States Golf Association.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious respiratory disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). First identified in Wuhan, China in 2019, it has lead to a very serious global health crisis that ramped up in the United States beginning in March 2020. COVID-19 quickly spread throughout the United States between March-May 2020, resulting in local and state governments issuing severe business restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Consequently, all factions of the golf industry quickly assembled to: 1) ensure golfing was included as an acceptable form of outdoor recreation; and 2) ensure minimal maintenance at golf properties could continue. Proactive advocacy efforts included outreach to governor’s offices in all 50 states by golf industry leaders and state-based golf coalitions.

The golf industry, working in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control, developed Back2Golf guidelines which were modeled after President Trump’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. These guidelines demonstrate that golf can offer an outdoor recreational experience that provides many health and wellness benefits. This comprehensive plan allows golf to be played responsibly while observing recommended social distancing guidelines.

With Americans seeking opportunities to safely recreate outdoors, golf rounds were at record highs throughout 2020 in many parts of the country resulting in an increased awareness and appreciation for the numerous benefits golf courses bring to communities. However, while golf rounds have increased, many golf facilities and clubs have been significantly impacted by government-mandated restrictions on operations and outright closures. Like many small businesses in the service industry, the service side of golf has suffered tremendous losses with event, tournament and wedding cancellations, and reduced restaurant operations. In a Club Management Association of America (CMAA) survey released on July 1, 2020, 90 percent of clubs and golf facilities responding said they had experienced a financial loss in 2020. The average loss experienced exceeded $600,000 per club in the first six months of the year.