For a sport that is very much solitary and self-focused, the game of golf is, these days, inexorably linked with charity. Though some would see the sport as focused-inward or even self-centered, all you need to do to disprove that notion is to look at the game itself, rooted in the values of integrity and sportsmanship. There is no I in golf, after all!
So it seems there is a natural partnership between golf and the compassion and respect that comes along with charitable giving. In 1938, the Palm Beach Invitational became the first tournament on record to make a charitable contribution. The tournament ended up donating $10,000, which is the equivalent of more than $170,000 today.
The longstanding tradition of giving back to society via the game of golf has only continued from that point. With a $3.9 billion annual charitable impact, the game of golf has raised more money than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey Leagues COMBINED.
In 2016, almost 13,000 golf facilities hosted charitable events, and that number is a full 84% of total golf courses in the United States. The recipients of these charitable donations are wide-ranging and diverse, and most of them from education to veterans. There are any number of local, regional, national, and even global causes that have been beneficiaries, and the amount of money brought into these causes is up 8% from the year 2011. Nearly 12 million golfers are estimated to have been the ones raising that $3.9 billion total.
“I think it’s the best vehicle for raising money,” said Kelly McCoy, one of the main coordinators of the NFL Alumni Charity Golf Classic. “There are 30 chapters in the NFL Alumni Association and all 30 have golf tournaments. The Connecticut Chapter is one of the top chapters in the country, raising between $70-90,000 each year with this tournament.”
America’s largest charity golf event, the Liberty Mutual Invitational Nationals, drew in the impressive amount of $8.3 million in 2016 alone. “Golf has always been a charitable game, and the PGA and LPGA tours are the most visible contributors,” said Loren Shapiro, the event’s founder. “But localized efforts like this are the unheralded bedrock of golf’s charitable work.”
The two biggest reasons given in surveys, when asked why individuals do not contribute to charitable causes, are time and money. So why not spend time and money you would already spend on your golf game, AND play for a good cause while you’re at it? A great course, a beautiful day, a good game of golf, and giving back to others? What could be better than that?