National Golf Day Lobbies On The Hill…

You may go to a driving range or your local public course this week and not know anything about National Golf Day, but that’s not really what the initiative is about. The campaign is a smart industry initiative aimed directly at politicians, not the public, to build awareness for the golf industry and help change the perception that the sport is elitist and doesn’t give back. It’s not the direct consumer campaign of FIRST TEE, which is aimed at getting inner city and minorities at a young age to take up the game as a life sport.

It is all about dollar awareness for those elected to better understand the business more than the game, and it is a smart move by the sport, coming off a Masters weekend which brought thousands of casual sports fans to the game via CBS for the first time this spring.

 Their explanation:

 “WE ARE GOLF was formed four years ago, in part because it had become clear the industry was misunderstood by too many elected officials. Longstanding perceptions of the game simply didn’t square with the facts. By focusing on the nearly two million Americans whose livelihoods are tied to golf, WE ARE GOLF has leveled the playing field for the thousands of small businesses that make up the industry.

 As a result, golf is no longer being excluded from important legislation. Members of Congress now better understand the myriad benefits the game brings to their communities.

 The nearly two million U.S. jobs generated by the $69 billion golf industry, and its vast economic reach, are at the core of WE ARE GOLF’S message. Given the scope and pace of federal government activity and the impact on small businesses, the golf industry can play a vital role as policymakers continue efforts to boost employment and get the nation’s economy back on track.  Beyond better demonstrating golf’s profound economic clout, WE ARE GOLF illustrates the industry’s health and wellness benefits, its unparalleled charitable giving, and its environmental sustainability initiatives.”

 The Organizations participating included the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA), PGA of America, PGA TOUR and WGF.

 National Golf Day featured a day-long exhibit in the Rayburn Foyer with live lessons for Members of Congress and staff from 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year Michael Breed, host of “The Golf Fix” on Golf Channel, and LPGA Professional Dana Rader. Special exhibits and activities featured an aboutGolf simulator with a “Closest to the Pin” contest; state-of-the-art swing analysis from GolfTEC; Birdie Ball, the latest at-home training technology; a Republican vs. Democrat “Putting Challenge;” lessons from Mid-Atlantic Section PGA Professionals and a golf educational display.

 It is an example of a sport lobbying at its best, going right to the decisionmaker to close the sale. Now do other sports have such a public outreach? Sure. Football, baseball, and tennis, to name a few will make their annual trek to DC to preach the virtues of their sport, and many are included in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. Golf however has other battles to fight. Courses take up massive chunks of land in communities and although participating and awareness of the game are strong, it is expensive to play and limiting to many sections of the population. For better or worse, it is still a status symbol sport to many, despite its virtues. This concerted effort by the industry continues to make efforts to change that perception, starting with those who control legislation and local budgets, with the hope that the message also gets back to the consumer down the line.

 Some may argue that the one day effort in DC doesn’t move the needle at the grassroots level, but it actually is very smart business to help ensure that efforts at the grassroots can be carried out. You have to start at the top, and this type of effort goes a long way in helping change perception from a business standpoint with those who control large swaths of public funding which could go elsewhere in an economy that is still on the rebound.

 National Golf Day is a good example of creative and direct lobbying by a sport looking to augment its image and tell its story that much better.