SCGA Public Affairs

RETURN TO NORMALITY?

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Not entirely, but for the most part, yes. Los Angeles County too, you may ask? This is what LA County Department of Public Health shared with SCGA in response to our direct inquiry about the scrapping of the region’s last separate set of golf protocols/rules, the infamous Golf Appendix: Most of the protocols will be voided and the Health Officer Order will be amended to more closely align with the state.” We take that as a cautious bureaucracy’s way of saying, yes. This means that for all intents and purposes the activities that take place on the course and in the clubhouse will be back to where they were in February 2020. Face coverings will continue to be required in certain public places such as public transit, airplanes, and close quarter gatherings of more than 5,000 persons, but no golf activity or function falls thereunder. Rules for those who work at and on golf courses will be slightly different, but today Governor Newsom got well ahead of CAL-OSHA’s anticipated reconsideration of workplace protocols by announcing that on Thursday he will issue an Executive Order that fully aligns California’s workplace rules re face coverings with the CDC’s rules. In other words, all social distancing requirements will be dropped, and face coverings will only be required for those who are unvaccinated while working indoors or in vehicles. Outdoor masking will be a thing of the past.


Of course, if LA County Public Health’s past is prelude, we have serious doubts about the Golf Appendix having been formally rescinded when the sun comes up tomorrow morning, but whether it is or is not, it will only be a matter of when, not whether.


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OF TASK FORCES, MUNICIPAL CHALLENGES AND WISE WORDS FROM ANOTHER INDUSTRY


The last time we spoke we left you hanging. After arming you with a pretty good set of arguments in defense of golf’s use of water, we teased you with a promise to provide a similarly cogent set of arguments in defense of golf’s disproportionate use of open space. “Teased” as in wait until the next Update.

First, a bit more tease before we share those arguments – a very much on-point tease, but a tease, nonetheless.

At the beginning of this year the USGA asked SCGA Governmental Affairs to lead a task force of mostly fellow state/amateur golf associations for the purpose of making findings and issuing recommendations as to how the USGA and its allied golf associations might approach a few of the ambitious pivots the USGA made in its new strategic plan, among them: 1) A greater presence in the realm of “advocacy” and the appropriate lane in that realm for the USGA and AGA’s; 2) a greater focus on municipal golf; 3) enhanced engagement with local golf communities; and 4) an appropriate role in the game’s various growth initiatives.

The group is still in its fact-finding phase, and while we will certainly share detail with you later in the year, it would be premature to do so now. For now, suffice it to say that as the group coalesces around common themes and common ground, whatever those findings cum recommendations at the end of 2021 turn out to be, nothing but good will come out of the exercise for both the USGA and the many state/regional golf associations rapidly coming to recognize that their member clubs have come to expect a certain measure of “advocacy” from their golf association. A recognition that was moving slowly before COVID has been accelerated greatly by the COVID experience, as well as some dicey tax and land use issues that have been popping up with grisly regularity in certain American states.

In a sea of interesting observations, riveting presentations, and deep discussions one short comment from one of the Task Force’s municipal golf managers has provided the proverbial “ah ha” moment: “It always takes a community to ‘save’ a municipal golf course; golfers are never enough.”

Truer words have never been uttered. SCGA’s experience with every one of its many “save” muni experiences over the years and the ten (10) ongoing ones we listed in the last Update have proven this wise municipal golf manager’s dictum. That’s why SCGA Governmental Affairs expends so much effort trying to convince our allies in the golf community to wean themselves from the cozy comforts of preaching to the converted in favor of preaching to those outside the community; either they’re potential allies ripe for conversion or potential adversaries whose strengths and arguments must be thoroughly understood and respected in order to be effectively countered. That’s why SCGA expends equal effort educating the game’s organizations about the unique nature of every community into which we wade – not unique in terms of certain common principles, but certainly in terms of unique stakeholder groups. And that’s why SCGA Governmental Affairs is so repetitive about the need to be on the ground in every one of these communities; without that component, there’s no way to know who the potential allies/stakeholders are, let alone the most potent adversaries. Flying blind as it were – a position golf communities far too often find themselves in and then wonder why they got a bad result.

When news broke that a group called Oswit Land Trust had partnered with the Public Trust for Land to purchase Palm Springs’ 36-hole Tahquitz Creek municipal golf complex to repurpose it as a “desert preserve,” SCGA did what it can best do in these situations by informing its Palm Springs resident members and penning an op-ed in the local newspaper (Desert Sun) in an effort to inform the whole community of what was transpiring away from general public view. Okay, it was an informational commentary with a tinge of advocacy for continued golf operation. You can judge for yourself by clicking here to read the electronic version; the hard copy version ran in a Sunday edition.

Click here to see the “Save PS Golf” site that an eclectic group of stakeholders has cobbled together to make the “community” case for Tahquitz Creek that our sage municipal golf manager informed the USGA Advocacy Working Group is essential for the success of any such “save” campaign. It’s a real world, living, current example of the general principles outlined herein – an eclectic mix of virtues and values that a public golf course adds to any community, not altogether appropriate for a regional golf association but perfectly appropriate for a grassroots community group. A narrative to remember as well as a primer about the different roles played by different groups as challenges to the very legitimacy of golf’s claim to public land increasingly come up.

And coming up they are; count on it!

To close this sermon out, consider the following wise words of a labor leader whose members work in the oil industry, an industry that despite its size is also a beleaguered one to the degree to which its very legitimacy is increasingly under attack – wise words that are quoted verbatim in a story running in today’s Los Angeles Times titled, “why oil worker unions back clean energy:”

  • “As an oil worker, you’re standing on the track, and you can see the train coming. We can argue about why the train is coming. We can argue about exactly when it’s going to get here. But it’s coming. The choice for us, do we stand on the track and face whatever happens? Or do we get up on the platform and try to catch that train going out of the station?” [Dave Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer Local 675 United Steelworkers]

The train coming down the oil worker’s track is the phaseout of fossil fuels. The train going out of Campbell’s proverbial station is access to the thousands of “green” and clean energy jobs that in his opinion are sure to displace them. Golf’s train is less specific; it’s more philosophical and sociological than environmental, but with a significant environmental component, nonetheless. As for golf’s ticket out of Campbell’s proverbial station, something more proactive than defensive campaigns is in order, albeit until such time as the game’s leadership organizations figure how to coordinate one, golf will have to be content with ad hoc efforts like the one our friends in Palm Springs are actively conducting right now – that and the multiple ad hoc efforts SCGA Governmental Affairs is actively working on right now as well.

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