News & ToursJanuary 27, 2009

The governator's golf tax

California golfers do not intend to quietly acquiesce to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his proposal to tax golf to help alleviate the state's $40 billion-plus budget shortfall.

Spearheading the opposition to the tax is Ted Horton, whose credentials bring gravitas to the effort. Horton, who in 2008 was honored with the USGA Green Section Award, was the superintendent at Winged Foot Golf Club for 12 years (which included his contribution to the Massacre at Winged Foot, the '74 U.S. Open) and at Westchester Country Club for 11 years. He later became vice president for resource management at the Pebble Beach Co.

Today he is president of the California Alliance for Golf, which has undertaken the task of defeating a tax that could run as high as 10 percent on everything from green fees to range balls. Horton's group has the support of "virtually all the golf associations within the state," he said, including the Southern California and Northern California golf associations.

The alliance has a website, forecalifornia.com, on which it has an interactive box for golfers to calculate what a 10 percent tax on their rounds played is going to cost them in a year.

"The industry is down ranging seven to 10 percent already (in California)," Horton said. "Add another 10 percent tax and most of the guys (course owners and operators) feel it will impact business. They'll either have to absorb some of the cost or will chase away golfers." Either way, he said, layoffs will be inevitable.

Among golfers most likely to be affected, he said, would be juniors and seniors, the latter of whom are living on fixed incomes, "and they are pretty selective in what they can and cannot afford."

-- John Strege

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