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Gov. Rick Scott considers himself Florida’s promoter-in-chief.
So it makes sense that he would use a TV interview on the opening day of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach to show off just how important golf is to Florida.
"Golf is big for the state," Scott told Action News Jacksonville on May 10, 2012. "1,200 golf courses. I think it’s 58 million rounds of golf played a year in Florida. … We’ve got 44 percent of all the travel golf in the country here. 5 million people come to Florida just for golf. It’s big business. It creates a lot of jobs."
Look, we’re not all politics all the time. We like to unwind and embrace our Florida side, too. We decided some golf-related research was in order.
There’s no doubt the sport is huge for Florida. Experts we consulted agree it’s the No. 1 destination for golf in the world.
Scott received this information from a 2004 National Golf Foundation report, spokesman Lane Wright said. We tried to get a copy but couldn’t locate one.
Scott is mostly on the mark with his statements, but we found some rough patches that we’ll explain one by one.
1,200 golf courses: Scott is close. Play Florida, the state’s golf marketing program, puts the number of facilities a little lower, at 1,056.
Did you catch how we used "facilities" instead of "courses"? That’s because one facility may have multiple courses. Take the Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, which has four courses but counts as one facility.
For that reason, the real number of courses is probably higher than 1,200, but "that’s the number we use," said Gary Jones, who manages Play Florida.
58 million rounds played a year: The number of rounds played each year is the barometer of the popularity of golf, said Tom Stine, co-founder of Golf Datatech, which conducts market research for the industry.
It seems the governor caught wind of some expired talking points. The number of rounds was 59 million in 2000, according to a University of Florida study.
In 2011, the number of rounds was 41 million, Stine said. That’s a slight uptick from 2010, but it still trails the annual number of rounds before the recession set in, which is probably where Scott is drawing his number, he said.
Round counts are up for 2012 in Florida and the country, he said. The reason is lots of sunny weather nationwide -- good news for golf lovers but bad for people who prefer skis.
Florida gets 44 percent of all travel golf in the country: This is the hardest one to track down. Stine said he doesn’t know what Scott means here, and that he’s skeptical all the golf in California, the Carolinas, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, and Michigan (in the summer) comprises just 56 percent of "travel golf."
"It’s one of those numbers if you don’t attach the methodology for it, how in the heck do you know what that means?" Stine said.
Jones also couldn’t be sure.
"I can tell you that it’s over 40 percent," he said, citing a university study he could not find by our deadline.
If we get more information on this point, we'll update our report.
5 million people come here just for golf: Scott is close here but misses a distinction between the two types of out-of-state golfers, Jones said.
On one hand, there are visitors who come to Florida just to play golf. There are about 1.5 million of these people, Jones said. They play an average of 5.2 rounds.
Then there are "amenity golfers" who come to Florida for reasons other than playing golf but fit it in anyway. Think of fathers making a break for it on an Orlando family vacation. Jones estimates there are 3.6 million of these golfers, which play an average of 1.2 rounds.
Combining these out-of-state golfers (1.5 million + 3.6 million) amounts to 5.1 million people. A chunk of these people, though, came to Florida for other reasons, which isn’t exactly what Scott said.
Golf is a big deal for the Sunshine State -- and now we know that more rays equal more rounds. Still, Scott needs to finesse his points before getting our hole-in-one rating. We rate his golf rundown Mostly True.
Interview with Larry Pendleton, Florida Sports Foundation president, May 11, 2012
Interview with Gary Jones, Destination Media president, May 11, 2012
Action News Jacksonville, Gov. Rick Scott’s interview, May 10, 2012
Interview with Tom Stine, Golf Datatech co-founder, May 11, 2012
VISIT FLORIDA via Tampa Bay Times, "Golf industry drives Florida’s economic engine," March 16, 2012
Interview with Lane Wright, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, May 11, 2012
PGA.com, "Florida Golf Day celebrates the industry’s impact on communities," May 11, 2012
University of Florida study, "Economic Impacts of the Florida Golf Course Industry," revised June 13, 2002
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