EGR Awards Case Study

Doug Lowe, CGCS at Greensboro Country Club, North Carolina

As the summer of 2003 approached, much of North Carolina was already in the grip of drought. Many municipalities were instituting water conservation measures trying to maintain supplies that would be needed during the hottest months. In few cities were the challenges greater than Greensboro, NC, where certified golf course superintendent Doug Lowe was responsible for two 18-hole courses that relied on city water.

In the months that followed, Lowe led a campaign that effectively saved his golf courses and those of several other superintendents in the city from being shut down. That campaign formed the basis of a statewide initiative Doug would spearhead in the years that followed. This effort culminated earlier in 2006 with significant and beneficial modifications to legislation governing water use by golf courses across North Carolina. Along the way, he also helped broker interim concessions that gave relief to several golf courses that use municipal water in Raleigh.

His outstanding efforts were recognized by his regional chapter, the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association, in March 2006, during a meeting and conference conducted in partnership with the USGA Green Section Southeast Region. It says something of the level of Doug’s contribution that this recognition was made even while the statewide issue itself was still being resolved. At that point, the campaign might well have failed to achieve its goals in terms of golf course water use during drought. However, the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors acknowledged that the exercise alone had benefited the golf industry and especially golf course superintendents.

Carolinas GCSA president, Danny Allen, read a letter to Doug from the board in front of about 150 attendees at the conference. The board noted that relationships established with decision-makers during the campaign had, at the very least, raised the profile of the game and golf course superintendents. The letter read in part: “Your efforts have been exemplary. Regardless of the outcome of this particular issue, you have given your colleagues a road map on how to take a hand in affairs that affect them and their profession. That is not only informative, it is also inspirational.”

Today, with a number of other critical issues confronting golf in the Carolinas, the Carolinas GCSA now contracts with a lobbyist in North Carolina and in 2007, will devote considerable staff time to influencing legislators and other key decision-makers in South Carolina. Both steps represent a significant new direction for the association in addition to a significant financial investment. But the experience learned through the campaigns inspired and largely directed by Lowe clearly demonstrated both a need and the potential benefit.

Here is a brief outline of Lowe’s achievements in government relations since early 2003.

Starting in 2003, Lowe has made an effort to become a part of the decision-making process and solution by opening lines of communication with lawmakers and research officials.  His research into other water management plans from municipalities around the nation has helped him to create positive relationships with the City of Greensboro government.  Their collaboration enabled new additions to be implemented into the city’s water plan.  Because of his contribution, the new water policy stressed more efficient water use as opposed to blanket water reductions.

Using his local experience with lawmakers and researchers, Lowe has also been able to transition them to the state level.  This influence was illustrated in the modifications made to HB 1215 in 2006.  The bill covers water conservation and use in the state of North Carolina and was up for public comment in January 2006.  With the help of the Carolinas GCSA, Lowe was able to coordinate selected testimony among fellow superintendents and supporting research to bring before deciding committee.  This grassroots effort also led to the formation of the NC Water Task Force.   Over the course of the comment process, some 50 golf course superintendents attended a series of three hearing on HB 1215 across North Carolina.  As a result, superintendents were able to win concessions to the bill which would improve the scope and potential for them to deal with water restrictions.

The concessions the Carolinas GCSA was able to gain will give golf course superintendents far greater flexibility and options when it comes to coping with future drought. Furthermore, the association now commands strong relationships with a number of legislators, city leaders, and agency officials across the state because of the campaign Doug initiated and made sure was maintained. There are few easy wins in influencing government. But superintendents in the Carolinas now know success and stand a far better chance of future gains because of the campaigns Lowe drove and the structure and relationships those campaigns have put in place.