Chapter Resources

Rocky Mountain GCSA partners with golf industry allieds to develop economic and environmental impact study

In 2002, Colorado experienced a 500-year drought that impacted the use of water throughout the state. Residential, industrial, and recreational water users were impacted by drought restrictions. The State of Colorado authorized funding for the Statewide Water Supply Initiative to study Colorado’s current water supplies and water demands for the year 2020. Golf courses and soccer fields closed. The effects of this natural phenomenon significantly impacted Colorado residents and tourists.

In July 2002, Dr. James Watson of The Toro Company provided valuable insight about the drought to a group of golf course industry professionals attending a Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents Association (RMGCSA) meeting. He indicated that without information about the water used on golf courses and the economic impact associated with the use of this valuable resource, golf courses in Colorado would have a difficult time defending the use of water for irrigation during the drought. Golf course superintendents were encouraged to evaluate their watering practices and develop plans for pending water restrictions.

After this meeting, the RMGCSA approached the Colorado Golf Association (CGA) in August about the need for an economic and environmental impact study. To gauge support from other parts of Colorado’s golf community, the idea was presented to individuals attending a meeting of Colorado’s public golf course operators in October 2002. Support for the project was very strong and many golf courses expressed their willingness to support the project with financial contributions. Presenting the project at golf meetings generated significant support, so a presentation about the proposed project was given to attendees at the Colorado Golf Course Owners Association’s Golf Summit. Once again, the response was very supportive and additional financial contributions were promised.

The positive responses received from members of the golf community fueled the efforts to proceed with the project. In November 2002, a proposal outlining the goals and a timeline for the study were completed and a list of potential consultants were provided to the CGA, RMGCSA, Colorado Section of the PGA, Colorado Women’s Golf Association, Colorado chapter of the Club Managers Association of America, and Colorado chapter of the National Golf Course Owners Association. Contributions from each of these organizations were discussed and a plan for financing the project was developed.

In February 2003, the RMGCSA was the first Colorado golf organization to commit funds to the economic impact study project. The CGA dedicated funds later that month, and eventually, the other Colorado golf associations agreed to financially support the project. To maximize the funds available for the project, a letter requesting monetary support for the project was mailed to golf course industry professionals throughout the state. This letter generated additional funds for the project and helped create a budget of $78,000 for the project. With the proper amount of funding in place, a request for proposals was developed and mailed to five consulting firms.

Interviews with the consulting firms were conducted in March 2003 and two consulting firms were selected to complete the project: Colorado State University’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and THK Consulting, Inc. The two firms provided the perfect balance for the project. Colorado State University offered the resources associated with an academic institution and THK provided a wealth of knowledge generated during the completion of numerous Colorado golf course feasibility studies. The two consultants divided project responsibilities and a survey was developed to gather the required information.

The survey was designed to gather information from the diverse areas that contribute to a golf course operation; the operational areas that generate an economic impact and the environmental inputs that are essential to, and define, the golf course property. To efficiently gather these two types of information, the survey included two parts. One section was designed to gather information from the club manager or facility manager and the other section was designed to gather information from the golf course superintendent. To maximize the number of responses from Colorado golf courses, the entire survey was mailed to over 500 individuals, including golf course superintendents, club managers, golf professionals, and golf course owners.

Colorado State University analyzed the information provided by the surveys and developed a model to determine the economic impacts associated with Colorado’s golf course industry. They also analyzed the golf course property information from the superintendent’s survey, including irrigation water consumption, turfgrass acreage for all areas of the course, habitat acreage, and other information. The Colorado study was one of the first in the United States to gather baseline information about the golf course and this information would provide an avenue for comparing golf course natural resource usage to other industries within the state.

To maximize distribution of the study’s results:

  • Golf courses and individuals that contributed to the study received a bound copy of the results
  • Information generated by the study was printed in 5,000 glossy, four-page brochures
  • A one-page executive summary was written
  • Articles were published in golf association newsletters and trade magazines
  • Study results were posted on web sites
  • PowerPoint presentations were developed for and presented at meetings
  • A package containing the study brochure, an executive summary and a letter about the study were mailed to all members of the Colorado Legislature. (The brochure and executive summary highlighted information from all areas of the study, including economic impacts, golfer profiles, and environmental aspects of Colorado’s golf course economy.)

The efforts required to complete Golf in Colorado: An independent Study of the 2002 Economic Impact and Environmental Aspects of Golf in Colorado have strengthened the voice of golf in Colorado, defined economic impact numbers that were previously unavailable, defined the environmental inputs required to operate a Colorado golf course, quantified the amount of water consumed by Colorado golf courses annually, created an informational tool that can defend the use of water resources at golf facilities, and most importantly, created a strong working relationship between the six Colorado golf associations.

For more information about this project, contact Joe McCleary CGCS, at 303-699-3920, or visit to view the study and other supporting materials.

Submitted by Joe McCleary, CGCS, RMGCSA President

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