Deeds and WeedsJanuary 28, 2009

The California Golf Tax

In case you haven't heard or read about the so-called "golf tax" in California, here is an update from today's Sacramento Bee.

In a nutshell: the state of California is facing a $41 billion shortfall between now and the end of 2010. To combat that, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a variety of new and unusual taxes, including an 8-10 percent tax on all things golf related: everything from green fees and equipment purchases to country club dues. If golf officials in the state are acting and behaving a little singled-out, perhaps its because lots of other recreational actvities -- the article cites bowling, skiing and gym memberships as examples -- are not being similarly taxed.

"My first reaction was that I understand times are tough," said Rod Metzler, whose company, Empire Golf, manages four golf course properties in the Sacramento area. "[But] when I saw the specifics, I thought, 'They're picking on golf.' "

Whether you agree with Metzler's view or not, the timing of this tax couldn't be happening at a worse time for golf, which already faces challenges over flat or declining participation, club membership shortfalls and the ancillary effects of the real estate crisis.

I grew up in Sacramento, learned to play at its two fine public courses, Haggin Oaks and Ancil Hoffman, then spent my summers home from college as a bag room/cart jockey at one of the city's oldest private clubs, Del Paso CC. One of my oldest friends in Sacramento is a guy who has worked in the golf business there for nearly three decades. I called him last week to ask about the golf tax. He told me, "This isn't going to help."

-- G.R.