Fall 2014 www.GolfIncMagazine.com 11
Length 410 yards
That’s the sound one makes when getting hit by a golf ball. It’s also the sound
the course operator makes when getting
sued by someone who got hit by a golf
That’s not the only worry, of course.
Golf cart injuries are on the rise, and some
courses have been hit by lawsuits over
those mishaps. A Florida course was sued
after an unattended cart accelerated and
ran over and killed a golfer in 2010.
Other legal worries? How about a golfer
getting his arm chewed off by an alligator,
which happened at a Fripp Island, S.C.,
course in 2009?
If you offer booze, you open yourself to
other concerns, such as serving minors.
John Minan, a law professor at the
University of San Diego and the author of
“The Little Green Book of Golf Law,” said
that in 2004 golf ranked first or second in
lawsuits, challenged only by baseball. He
hasn’t seen recent statistics but said that is
still likely the case.
Courses can try and negate suits by
posting warnings, but they could still be
held liable, he said.
“Liability generally turns on whether
the actions of the golf course have
increased the risk of the injury-causing
event,” Minan said.
In our ever-growing litigious society,
this makes for one tough hole. According
to Club Benchmarking — which has data
from about 1,000 private clubs — property
and liability insurance take up between 7
and 10 percent of a club’s expenses.
It’s not a luxury, but a requirement.
Length 307 yards
A seven-iron should get you safely on the
green, but there is one big hazard to worry
about — the Affordable Care Act. That
brings considerable uncertainty — sort of
like a Tiger Woods tee shot of late.
However, according to Ray
firm’s database shows that club
health care expenses comprise
between 5 percent and 8 percent of total payroll costs. That
equates to between 2 percent
and 5 percent of overall revenue.
“Clearly it is important, but
the data helps keep its effect in
perspective,” he said.
There is one new twist, he
added. Some clubs are using higher-end
health care insurance plans as a way to
attract and retain employees in exchange
for lower salaries and wages. It’s an inter-
esting angle, he noted, on managing
human resources costs.
Par (Depends on where your course
Length (See above)
This is a tricky one. According to Jeff
Monroe, owner of TPS, a Denver-based
property tax consulting firm, this could
easily rise to a par 5, depending on how
the course is assessed and where the golf
course is located. It could also be a par 3
— again, depending on variables.
He’s done work from Hawaii to Florida,
he noted, and there are a number of different ways municipalities assess golf
courses. Some base it on the income the
course is producing; others calculate it by
the worth of the property the golf course
However, formulas can change. For
instance, in Colorado, there’s a fight over
whether initiation fees are part of a club’s
value. If they are deemed so, it would
increase the value of the clubs and, hence,
their tax obligations.
Some states, such as Florida, realize
golf is important to tourism, so they don’t
want to over-assess, he said. And some
states don’t have that philosophy.
Courses are most willing to question
and fight assessments if they know it can
be done in a timely matter.
“Some states can be arduously long,”
Monroe said. “It can be a long chess
match. Who can stay at it the longest?”
And some mount challenges out of
necessity. Two years ago, Allegheny
County reassessed the value of 3 Lakes
Golf Course in Pittsburgh, raising the
value from $1.9 million to $6.2 million.
The operator freaked. He paid $1.9 mil-