SCGA Public Affairs


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Just when some thought it might be safe to go back into the water and we thought it would be a good idea to rebound from the Independence Day Holiday with an uplifting message about some of the positives that came out of the recently concluded U.S. Open Championship in Los Angeles (see 2nd story below), we were awakened this morning to an editorial running in today’s editions of the Southern California News Group’s newspapers (SCNG) advocating for the resurrection of AB 1910. Its title: “Why not turn golf courses into homes?”

Among those newspapers are the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Telegram, Riverside Press Enterprise, Pasadena Star News, South Bay Daily Breeze, and Orange County Register – a wide swath of Southern California to say the least. And from a group of newspapers that didn’t issue so much as a peep when AB 672 and AB 1910 were live bills, which certainly raises questions about the timing. Is there a late session gut-and-amend in the offing? Is this just all about a certain libertarian think tank’s (Reason Foundation) influence with the SCNG Editorial Board? The Reason Foundation has long objected to publicly owned/operated functions of all kinds, very much including municipal parkland golf courses, and today’s editorial is chalk full of the typical canards about municipal golf courses being subsidized as opposed to being the subsidizer, being the playgrounds of the rich as opposed to offering golf at an average greens fee of $38, and representing a large encumbrance of public land as opposed to being a speck compared to the various encumbrances such as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, whose 155,000 acres of undevelopable land in the state’s largest city dwarfs the acreage encumbered by ALL of California’s golf courses combined.

Whatever the reason, whatever the motivation, we’ll do our best in combination with our allied organizations in the California Alliance for Golf to figure out the who, what, and why of this. Something prompted this. Someone prompted this. Whatever the motivation or reason, one thing is certain. Today’s editorial breathed life back into the notion of singling golf and only golf out among all the various park and open space activities to help mitigate what golf agrees is an acute housing shortage in this state. And if our suspicions about the Reason Foundation are borne out, know that “life” for the notion of turning publicly owned golf courses into homes comes from multiple sides of the political aisle.

In the Spring issue of the SCGA’s hard copy magazine FORE, Craig wrote the following about AB 1910 in a much larger article about the game often failing to see what’s under its nose: “You only surprise people once, particularly people who are active in politics. As laws keep evolving to prefer housing over parks, open space, and recreation, golf cannot be content to merely duplicate last year’s campaign and expect the same successful result.”

We are not happy to report that for the most part golf has rested content to think it can simply fend off assaults on its turf (literally) by doing the same thing the same way and assuming that those with different ideas about golf’s place in California will follow suit. Complacency has been golf’s order of the day this last year.

Kipling posited the idea that triumph and disaster were but twin imposters to be treated as equals, but we’ll dare say that failure is a greater teacher than success. But even “success” should have taught us something, even if only that both success and failure are fleeting.

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Before Los Angeles’ first United States Open Championship in 75 years recedes into memory, we want to share what beyond the great show of championship golf the event left behind.

First, the obvious – the “Legacy Project.” The USGA partnered with The Los Angeles Country Club, the SCGA, the Western States Golf Association, the American Golf Corporation and the County of Los Angeles to raise $7 million and counting toward revitalizing the county’s Maggie Hathaway Golf Course in Jesse Owens Park at 120th Street and Western Avenue in the heart of South Los Angeles – an effort that will deliver to a community that has for more than 60 years provided affordable, accessible golf to a neighborhood far from golf’s traditional beaten paths an upgraded and improved facility that will allow that community to keep doing what it knows how to do best – deliver grassroots golf programming to that community by that community. And for the sake of Maggie Hathaway’s continued success, it is important that this community remain in the lead.

An overlooked but nonetheless key element of the Legacy Project involved the raising of more than $2 million to support junior golf programming – a benefit that will accrue not just to Maggie Hathaway but other junior programs that serve “at risk” communities in Los Angeles County. That “element” was jump started by a large matching contribution from the SCGA. Many thanks to those SCGA members who contributed to the Association’s “match.” And there were many of you.

The USGA’s $1 million grant to the Legacy Project represented the 2nd year of an effort by the game’s governing body to use its championships, particularly the U.S. Open, to leave behind something of tangible value to the communities that host them. The PGA of America is now doing something remarkably similar with its PGA Championship by making financial contributions to the municipal golf sector in the city that hosts its national major championship. If this is a trend, suffice it to say, it’s a long overdue move in a positive direction. For reasons too complicated to share here but worthy of a deep dive at another time, golf is way behind other sports in terms of using revenues from its professional sports activities to fund local variants of their game. Los Angeles’ pro sports franchises have built hundreds of sports fields, gyms, and recreation centers in the greater Los Angeles area, a phenomenon duplicated in cities across America. To the degree to which what the USGA is now doing with its major championship and the PGA of America is doing with theirs represents golf taking its first baby steps to matching the efforts of other professional sports – well, suffice it to also say that the hardest step in any long journey is the first one. Kudos to the USGA and PGA of America for taking it. We can only hope that the PGA Tour isn’t too distracted by its current troubles re LIV and the Saudi PIF to take notice and respond similarly.

Second, the less obvious but hardly the less important leave behind – the “15/30” Water Conservation Initiative.” That’s the USGA’s commitment of $30 million dollars over the next 15 years to all things golf and water conservation – e.g., turf research, demonstration projects, education. It was less obvious, because unlike the Legacy Project, which was entirely local in scope, the “15/30” initiative is national in scope. Eyes glazed over and ears tuned out for that reason when USGA CEO Mike Whan announced it at the news conference that kicked off U.S. Open week at LACC.

But we understood what the initiative meant in tangible benefits to the Southern California golf community. For starters it meant significant financial and in-kind assistance with the myriad golf & water summits SCGA and its allied partners have been putting on and plan to continue putting on in the region. It meant a $25K contribution to an important mapping program in the Coachella Valley. It meant $135,000.00 to the Cal Poly Pomona Turf Program, a desperately needed research and practical education program on the edge of extinction that the SCGA has been supporting and touting to others for years. It meant continued flows of substantial dollars to academic and field research efforts in irrigation efficiency, turfgrass breeding, weather station technology, subsurface drip irrigation, and a whole host of other technological aides. Perhaps, most importantly, it meant the continued assistance and support of USGA Green Section experts with the work of the various “golf & water task forces” SCGA has created over the years in Los Angeles, the Coachella Valley, and other locales to bring golf and water providers/districts together to collaborate on the commonly held goal of reducing the game’s water footprint.

This is not meant to diminish the parallel role played by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). It too has proven an indispensable asset to these collaborations. But when it comes to golf and water in the Southwest, the game can use every asset and every organization it has – and then some.

The SCGA is proud to collaborate with both the USGA and the GCSAA on local/regional water challenges. We are proud to collaborate with the NGCOA (National Golf Course Owners Association) on an October 12 “Colorado Basin Golf & Water Summit” in Las Vegas (more about that later). We are proud to collaborate with the PGA of America and California’s two PGA Section Chapters on not just water, but a whole host of California-centric matters, particularly municipal sector issues. We’ll work with any organization that wants to work “for the good of the game,” because what’s good for the game in general is always good for each constituent part of it. That includes any level of government, particularly the myriad park departments that own/manage 22.3% of California’s golf courses. That includes any private sector entity that recognizes a responsibility to contribute to the commonweal of the industry that supports them. Together we’re all stronger, and the game is stronger

Archived Updates

Opposition to Assembly Bill 1910

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CGCOA Golf is Good Ambassador Program

Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

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FORE - Public Affairs

FORE - The magazine of the SCGA. Find archived Public Affairs articles on the website of the SCGA's award winning quarterly publication.

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AB 3192 [Muratsuchi; D-Torrance]

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Last Friday was the deadline for the filing of 2024 bills. Because 2024 is the second year of California’s two-year legislative session as well as a presidential election year, there were fewer bills filed this year than last. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of filings.

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Of Water, State Budgets, and “Entertainment” Golf

It’s that time of year when we start to pay close heed to the status of the Sierra snowpack upon which so much of Southern California’s water needs continue to depend – a dependence that the region is busy working to reduce in favor of local supplies – e.g., storm water capture, aquifer replenishment, traditional recycling (non-potable), potable reuse, and desalination.

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Back in early October we reported that the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) was set to hold its first public hearing on the Proposed Rule it published August 18 to effectuate what the Governor and others had termed “Making Conservation a California Way of Life.”

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This is our Holiday message, and it is one of optimism. Yes, some of the challenges are daunting. But golf has proven over and over again that if it will organize itself around its many strengths, tackle the arduous work of communicating those strengths to all who will listen, and never succumb to cynicism and defeatism, it can not only survive, but thrive.

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Affordable housing a big winner; local control a big loser. What might it mean for golf in California.

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“CalMatters” is a nonprofit, non-partisan state news service that was created a few years ago to do the kind of in-depth journalism once routinely provided by newspapers and periodicals and now provided scantily if at all only by those media organs funded by charitable contributions or substantial enough to sustain deficits.

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