January 7, 2009

The Golfinator

Can a golf tax help ease California's budget deficit? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks so

I paid Snap Hook Sims the $11.16. That was for the three $5 bets I lost -- front, back and 18.

Snap Hook quickly wanted to know what happened to the rest of the money, the $3.84? He was pretty good at arithmetic.

I explained that I was forced to withhold $3.84 to pay Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's golf tax.

This was at Pebble Ditch, a new layout in Northern California that Golf Digest had named one of America's Best New Public Courses. It was chosen for the mes-merizing way it weaves through the rows of artichoke plants.

"What about the presses?" Snap Hook asked.

"Oh, right," I said. "Let's see. That'll be ... uh, $7.68."

"Just great," said Snap Hook sarcastically. "I win another $15, but I only collect $7.68."

I calmly told him that presses will be taxed at a higher rate under Gov. Schwarzenegger's guidelines. "In fact," I said, "presses to get even on 18 will be taxed even more. For example, if I'd pressed for $50 on 18 -- and lost -- you'd only get $28.32... according to the tax scale."

"What I've read about it, the law hasn't even been passed yet," Snap Hook said. "It's only the governor's proposal."

"But we have to be prepared," I said. "If investment bankers have taught us anything in this life, it's that the financial world can crumble overnight." We were joined by Deep Divot Hudgins, the head pro at Pebble Ditch. He reminded us that we'd rented a golf cart for $75, but the tax hadn't been added. We owed another $43.10. "I feel bad about it," Deep Divot said, "but it's going to be the law. Incidentally, I believe you both bought a dozen balls in the shop today."

"We did," Snap Hook said. "And we both paid your assistant $58.19 per dozen."

Lip Out Gresham was the assistant.

"Lip Out doesn't keep up with current events," Deep Divot said. "He doesn't know about the state's $28 billion budget deficit that our governor's dealing with. That's why he overlooked the $39.56 tax on each dozen."

Snap Hook said, "So a dozen hot ones costs me $97.75 now?"

"You could have bought cheaper," the pro said.

"Yeah, if I wanted to hit fur balls," Snap Hook said, pulling out his money clip.

Deep Divot informed me that my driver was ready to pick up. It had been re-shafted. I owed $657.32 for the new shaft, but the figure included the $468.15 tax.

"The tax is more than $400?" I said, gasping.

The pro said, "It's unfortunate, but the tax is incredibly high on precious materials. We had a hard time finding something that would give you the extra distance you want. I know you had hoped our contacts in the antique business might have turned up some of the swords General Gordon and his army used to fight the Fuzzy-Wuzzies in the siege of Khartoum, but no such luck. Still, I think you'll be happy with what we did manage to come up with. We believe it will give you 50 to 80 yards more off the tee."

"What did I get?" I asked eagerly.

"We were fortunate to locate some recycled metal from the fuselage of a World War II Messerschmitt 109," he said.

Only a few of us know the real story of how Gov. Schwarzenegger decided to tax golf. It started when he saw a golf course. He was driving around Sacramento one day when he noticed that Del Paso Country Club devoted a great deal of land to a game people played.

There wasn't anything like it in any Austrian gymnasiums he had frequented. Nothing like it on the ski slopes in Sun Valley. Nothing like it on Hollywood soundstages. There must be money involved, he thought.

The governor said to two members on the putting green, "What you gonna do is, you gonna be giving me money for the deficit."

One of the members said, "I got your deficit right here. Take a hike. You can't do anything to golf."

"Oh, no?" the governor said. "I show you what I do."

That's when Gov. Schwarzenegger went over and picked up the 18th green, shook it till all the grass fell out, and threw it away. Then he bit off a corner of the clubhouse and swallowed it whole.

"Hasta la vista, baby," he said. "What you gonna do is, you gonna be hearing more from the Golfinator!"