Golf industry provides boost to state’s economy

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012


MONTGOMERY – Alabama’s 252 golf facilities, including the 11 sites that comprise the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, contribute $437.5 million annually to the state’s tourism and hospitality industry, according to an economic report released today by the Alabama Tourism Department.

When tournaments, real estate and course operations are added, the sport’s impact on the state approached $1.5 billion in 2010, the SRI International report said. More than 21,000 direct and indirect jobs with $458.8 million in wages were generated by the industry, the report said.

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The size of the industry is comparable to revenues generated by key industries, such as the production of resin, rubber and artificial fibers ($2.5 billion), aerospace products and parts ($1.3 billion) and crops ($818.7 million).

“Golf brings visitors to the state, spurs new residential construction, generates retail sales, and creates demand for a myriad of goods and services,” the report concluded.

State tourism director Lee Sentell said this was the first attempt to quantify the economic impact of a sport that has gained prominence since the RTJ golf trail was begun 20 years ago. The 26-course trail and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center each report about 500,000 in attendance annually, ranking them at the top of the state’s tourism attractors. Alabama’s tourism industry grew to more than $10 billion in 2011, according to preliminary figures.

“While the financial impact of golf should not be minimized, what can’t be measured is the improvement in Alabama’s image that results from tens of thousands of golfers experiencing their first visits. Golfers admit to being charmed by the warmth and friendliness of our people. Expectations of first-time visitors are usually exceeded,” he said.

Most major publications, from The New York Times to Forbes magazine, have written about the state’s unique collection of world-class courses operated by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, he said. “The trail generates great press that reflects well on the whole state and has an influence on industry site-selection decisions,” he said.

The southern tip of the state benefits from the cluster of highly-ranked courses near the pristine beaches of Gulf Shores, Sentell added. “Many states have beaches and other states have nice golf courses, but few states have beautiful courses alongside white sand beaches like our state has.”

As a side note, the report said that the combined annual revenue of University of Alabama and Auburn University football and basketball program revenues totaled some $158 million in 2009-10.

Sentell said the $25,000 study was funded by Golf 20/20, the Dixie Section of the PGA, the state tourism department, Robert Trent Jones Trail and the Gulf Shores Golf Association. He said the report establishes a baseline against which future studies will be compared to measure the growth of the golf industry.

SRI is a non-profit company that was founded as Stanford Research Institute by Stanford University in 1946. Clients include the Department of Defense, Federal Highway Administration, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, General Motors, New York Life, and Pfizer.