'Katrina' Bill Irritates Golf Course Owners Association

Lawmakers who passed a bill that excludes golf courses and clubs from tax benefits and other relief measures extended to Gulf Coast businesses affected by recent hurricanes "do not understand the golf industry and the contributions golf course owners and operators make to local communities," said Mike Hughes, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA).

The bill (Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005) was passed by the Senate on December 16 and created approximately $8 billion in benefits and relief. The compromise bill was intended to satisfy House conservatives who did not want tax benefits going to businesses defined as "any private or commercial golf course, country club, massage parlor, hot tub facility, suntan facility, liquor store or gambling establishment."

"To be singled out like this – as though the owners and operators of golf courses in this region are not part of the mainstream business community and do not make significant contributions to local economies – is outrageous," said Hughes, whose association represents approximately 6,000 golf course owners and operators.

"Golf is a centerpiece for the tourism industry in the Gulf Coast region and is responsible for generating millions of dollars in revenues and thousands of jobs. A golf course is no different than a restaurant or movie theater when it comes to hurricane relief," Hughes said.

Sue Wegrzyn, president and CEO of the National Club Association, added: "Clubs across the country have hired people displaced by these disasters, and members of country clubs have stepped up to the plate in fundraising drives on behalf of or to support relief agencies. It is disappointing Congress chose to make these distinctions."

At stake for the golf and club industry was access to tax breaks that included accelerated depreciation, deduction of demolition and clean-up costs, operating loss ”carryback” and an employee retention tax credit for employers in the disaster zones.

Hughes and Wegrzyn said the NGCOA and NCA would continue to work with congressional members to educate them on the important role clubs and golf courses play in their communities.