Certified Golf Course Superintendent P.J. McGuire mobilized his fellow superintendents to form an alliance that advocates for the golf industry as a united front.
In December 2008, when golf course superintendents in Nevada became aware of a state bill that potentially would cost golf courses hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in additional taxes, Certified Golf Course Superintendent P.J. McGuire took action of his own. He mobilized the members of the Southern Nevada and Sierra Nevada chapters of the Golf Course Superintendents Associaton of America (GCSAA), as well as the Southern Nevada Golf Association, the PGA Southwest Section, the Club Managers Association of America, the Nevada Golf Course Owners Association and the First Tee of Southern and Northern Nevada, to form the Nevada Golf Industry Alliance (NGIA).
After all, as the Director of Golf Course Maintenance for Par 4 Golf Management Co. in Las Vegas, McGuire knows about strength in numbers. He oversees maintenance operations at four Las Vegas-area properties—Primm Valley, Badlands and Silverstone golf clubs and Spanish Trail Country Club.
Because of the organized efforts of the NGIA, the bill never made it out of the state legislature’s taxation committee for a vote. Under McGuire’s leadership, the alliance is poised to challenge similar legislation that is expected to come up again this year.
For his efforts, McGuire won the national GCSAA’s 2011 Excellence in Government Relations Award. Recently, he told Club & Resort Business about his work to form the alliance and, along with other stakeholders in the industry, to strengthen the golf business in Nevada.
Par 4 Golf Management Co.
Clubs: Primm Valley Golf Club, Badlands Golf Club, Silverstone Golf Club and Spanish Trail Country Club
Holes: Primm Valley has 36 holes. Badlands, Silverstone and Spanish Trail each have 27 holes.
Designer: Primm Valley – Tom Fazio; Badlands – Johnny Miller and Chi Chi Rodriguez; Silverstone – Robert Cupp; Spanish Trail – Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Type: Primm Valley, Badlands and Silverstone are resort properties. Spanish Trail is private.
Year Opened: Primm Valley – 1996; Badlands – 1995; Silverstone – 2000; Spanish Trail – 1984
Golf Season: Year-round
Fairways: Bermuda; overseeded with perennial rye grass
Honors and Awards: P.J. McGuire won the GCSAA 2011 Excellence in Government Relations Award.
Primm Valley has been named “Best Places to Play” by Golf Digest, “Best Overall Course” by Vegas Golfer and ranked in the “Top 100 Courses” by Golf Magazine.
Badlands has been named “Top 10 Vegas Course” by Golf Digest, “Best Golf Course” by Las Vegas Review Journal and “Best Desert Course” by Las Vegas Review Journal and Vegas Golfer Magazine.
Q. How did you bring the different golf associations in Nevada together to form the Nevada Golf Industry Alliance?
A. Nevada is kind of like the wild, wild West, and for many years no one cared what anyone else was doing. But golf courses started getting attacked about water usage, and then it moved into taxation.
About 10 years ago, we recognized that we needed to pull together and work as a team. Our state legislature only meets every other year, and two years ago a bill was introduced that would change the way golf courses are taxed. Different golf courses could have been taxed from $2,000 up to six figures, with additional bottom-line tax dollars. This would have been an added expense for clubs that are already struggling, and it would have affected people’s lives.
So, the motivation was there to work together with a single voice. As individuals, we didn’t have much influence with legislators. But when you go to them as a representative of a $2 billion industry in the state that has 10,000 employees, and the backing of several major golf groups in Nevada, they’ll give you some time.
The way we set up the alliance is that we’ll try to take care of whatever issues come up – whether they’re issues affecting pros, superintendents, club managers or owners. We don’t need to have one mission. We just need to be one group.
Water issues in southern Nevada will be important in the coming years, and at some point, they will also be critical in the north. If the alliance pulls together with a unified voice, we’ll be organized and ready. It will simply be a matter of informing our members.
Q. What is the mission of the alliance?
A. The mission of the alliance is to improve business conditions for the golf industry in the state of Nevada by serving as an educational resource for the industry and the public, by serving as an advocate for the industry before the state legislature and other governmental bodies, and by communicating to the public the economic benefits and environmental stewardship provided by the game of golf.
The interesting thing about politicians is that they’re folks from all walks of life, and they’re not necessarily educated about the game of golf or the business of golf. It’s important for us to give them someone to call. Otherwise, they’re going to listen to a lobbyist or the person who drafted the bill. But with golf-specific issues, we can be the guys that will give them the facts.
This year, 10 percent of the golf courses in Las Vegas have closed their doors and another 10 percent are in danger of going bankrupt. If 20 percent of the golf courses are already closing their doors and you add a bottom-line tax increase, the number of closures is going to go up. The other 80 percent of golf courses in Las Vegas are barely making ends meet because of issues such as the year-round season and the cost of purchasing reclaimed water.
Our revenues are really dependent on tourism, and because of the economy, the golf industry here isn’t doing that well. We’re struggling to make ends meet, and the high cost of operating expenses, along with lower revenues, will put people out of work.
Q. How did you first become aware of the state bill that would no longer consider golf courses as open space under state tax laws?
A. In years past, we rode the coattails of a few developers who had paid lobbyists at the state house. We piggybacked on other folks’ lobbyists and their efforts. This year we were able to stand on our own. We have no choice, because the developers aren’t making any money either.
Q. How would the bill have affected golf courses in the state?
A. It would have added a bottom-line tax increase to golf courses that truly couldn’t afford it.
Q. Tell us about your initial visit to the state legislature to discuss the bill with lawmakers.
A. Our initial visit wasn’t about the bill. Our initial visit was to introduce the group to the politicians, to hold a reception and to let them know who we are and to make a presentation to the natural resources committee about the positive benefits of golf in the state of Nevada and golf’s positive use of Nevada’s natural resources. At that point, the bill hadn’t been introduced.
We made a second trip once the bill had been introduced and made its way to the taxation committee.
Q. What kind of tax-related legislation that would affect golf courses is expected to resurface this year?
A. The exact same bill is coming back. They’ve changed the wording a little bit to exclude certain golf courses in the state, but the same bill that got squashed in 2009 has reared its ugly head again. And realistically, we expect it to come up every year.
Q. What is your game plan to challenge the bill?
A. In 2009 we immediately contacted golfers and people who are passionate about the game to start a letter-writing campaign to committee members. On the day of the hearing, we went to Carson City and filled the committee room with golf folks to argue our side of the bill. With our strong showing, it never made it out of the committee and never went to a vote.
This year we also have a lobbyist that the NGIA has hired and who works behind the scenes for us. We’re working from the inside to make sure that the bill doesn’t make it to a vote.
Q. What are the other key issues facing golf in Nevada?
A. This year it looks like the biggest issue will be water usage in the southern part of the state. In 2003 there was a mandate about the amount of water that golf courses could use in Nevada. But there was no scientific backing. It was just an accounting number.
Golf courses use less than 8 percent of the water in southern Nevada. Almost 50 percent of the water is used by single-family homes. But because we have green grass, golf is a pretty easy target. We’re not green because we waste; we’re green because we do it right.
Raising prices isn’t going to change anything. If homeowners have a $10 increase to their bills, it’s not going to make any difference to them. But a rate increase to a golf course operator could be as much as $100,000 to $150,000 a year.
We need to put some science behind the numbers for water usage. We don’t want to adversely affect our tourism industry and our ability to bring people into the state.
People need to know how well we use water. Because it’s our highest single expense, we absolutely watch what we do with our water. But people don’t know that. Almost 800 acres of turf have been removed from golf courses in the Las Vegas area to save water. We don’t want to do anything that will change the economy and close down golf courses.
Q. What are other misconceptions that lawmakers have about the golf industry?
A. There are misconceptions that golf is making plenty of money and that it only affects wealthy white folks. Those are misconceptions that both lawmakers and the public have about golf.
We did an economic study and found that real estate agents, servers, busboys and hotel maids have jobs because golf is drawing tourists to the state. We need to support the business because everybody is affected by it. There is no warm-weather destination in the world that doesn’t have golf as an amenity.
Q. What does it mean to you to win the 2011 Excellence in Government Relations award?
A. It was nice for me personally. It was nice to be recognized by my peers. But it’s more important to draw attention to our organization. It is a benefit to all of us in the golf industry on a national level to see that our work in Nevada is getting recognized. All it can do is strengthen our position when we go talk to our legislators.
Q. How have your efforts contributed to the industry as a whole?
A. We saved every golf course in the state between $5,000 and $100,000 in 2009.
Q. What is the future role for the alliance statewide and nationwide?
A. The golf industry is going to be under attack for something every year, whether it’s water usage or tax issues or land use. But now that we have joined together as a group, we can react quickly to any challenges that face golf.
Q. What have you learned from your experience?
A. Going to Carson City in 2009 truly opened my eyes to how our political process works. It’s just regular, everyday folks in the legislature who vote and make decisions on issues. And sometimes they might not have all of the facts.