San Diego Business Journal

Like a good shot hit with your driver, golf bolsters the San Diego economy allowing it to soar to the greens. With our nearly ideal climate and year-round sunshine, playing a round of golf on one of our world-class 93 golf courses countywide is not only a hobby but a vital economic engine for our local economy.

According to a study by National University System Institute for Policy Research, the estimated golf economy generates more than $2.6 billion annually for the region and accounts for approximately 26,900 jobs. Research also shows that visitors who play golf in San Diego spend an estimated $1.9 million on goods and services, including lodging, dining and nongolf entertainment; this is in addition to their direct spending on our many San Diego golf courses, which is an estimated $64.1 million annually.

San Diego on Display

San Diego’s internationally recognized golf tournaments, the annual Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines golf course and the LPGA Kia Classic at the Aviara Golf Course in Carlsbad, also generate significant economic benefit to San Diego: an estimated $25.8 million results from these events and an additional $30.3 million flows to area charities.

These additional economic benefits are complemented by the invaluable domestic and international TV coverage that is generated by the tournaments for our region, further burnishing San Diego’s reputation as a top tourist destination worldwide, replete with world-class golf and much more. Our world-class golf courses regularly generate favorable media attention for our region. For example, Golf Digest magazine named Maderas Golf Club along with Torrey Pines on their list of the “Top 100 Public Courses in the U.S.”

Playing With Fire

The economic benefit of our region’s golf economy should not be taken for granted. The recent headlines have demonstrated problems facing many in the golf industry nationwide, with rounds declining, sales going down, and even some notable golf courses in bankruptcy or under threat of closure. When you combine these industry realities with a threatened tourism economy as a result of the lack of marketing dollars, which our city recently faced, the results could end up being catastrophic.

San Diego’s golf economy is reliant on visitors to the region.

Our private and public golf courses like Maderas, Torrey Pines, Balboa Park and Coronado, among others, rely on tourists who pay higher rates than residents to help pay for course maintenance and staffing, while also providing money to city coffers.

Marketing Efforts Are a Must

The marketing of San Diego, which brings golfers and other visitors to our region, is critical to everyone, from the thousands of full- and part-time employees within our industry to the 160,000 local residents employed in our hotels, restaurants, retail shops and other tourism-related companies.

And golf competition is fierce — and not just the play on our courses. We in the golf community know we’re competing for visitors from all over the West Coast and Hawaii, which is why a vibrant marketing effort is central to the vitality of our tourism and golf communities.

Therefore, one thing is certainly clear: Our visitors are our lifeblood — private, public and resort courses all benefit from a strong tourism economy. We need visitors in our region staying, dining, shopping and playing golf on our courses. If we don’t market to golfers and others from outside our region, it would be a troubling bogey on San Diego’s scorecard.

Bill O’Brien is general manager of Maderas Golf Course.