PHIT Act fanatics

The PHIT Act could be a hot topic at National Golf Day if supportive lawmakers and golf industry professionals have their say.


Group photo of GCSAA members at National Golf Day 2023 on the capitol steps
GCSAA members visiting Capitol Hill during National Golf Day 2023. Golf industry professionals will meet with their representatives this year to discuss a number of issues related to the golf industry, including the PHIT Act. Photo by Scott Ramsay

Greg Brandriet, CGCS, wants others to see his viewpoint about an acronym he touts for the golf industry. Those four letters? PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today).

The PHIT Act is among the topics superintendents and other golf industry proponents plan to address at National Golf Day (NGD) in Washington, D.C., scheduled May 8-10. In fact, those few days in May might be pivotal for this piece of legislation. In late April two additional members of the House Ways and Means Committee were added as bill co-sponsors. “We are pushing to add others. We need only one more to have a majority of HWM members as co-sponsors and think we will have that by NGD,” says Bill Sells, senior vice president-government and public affairs for the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and a leading force behind the bill.

The tax writing committees on Capitol Hill have diligently worked on the PHIT Act as bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would encourage physical activity and incentivize healthier living by allowing Americans to use a portion of the money saved on their pre-tax health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) toward qualified sports and fitness purchases, such as gym memberships, fitness equipment and youth sports league fees, and pay-to-play sports fees.

And, yes, it would include golf lessons, clinics, tournaments and greens fees.

Brandriet is passionate about the PHIT Act’s merit. “I worked on the PHIT Act a little bit with (U.S. Sen. R-SD) John Thune’s office. He was a big supporter, as were we, mainly because this bill addresses the economic barrier that prevents some people from taking up the game,” says Brandriet, a GCSAA Ambassador who was a superintendent in South Dakota priort to his current job as superintendent at JW Marriott Camelback Golf Club in Paradise Valley, Ariz. “That, along with improving the overall health of society with more participation in a lifelong sport, makes the PHIT Act a no-brainer for the golf industry to get behind.”

According to American Golf Industry Coalition, the PHIT Act’s stance is to promote healthy lifestyles by lowering the cost of activity participation. Physical activity is preventive medicine for chronic disease, mental health and substance abuse. The idea is to use pre-tax dollars in HSAs, FSAs, and other medical accounts to pay for preventing these health issues, not just treating them.

Group photo of GCSAA members at National Golf Day 2023 on the capitol steps
The PHIT Act helps Americans to use a portion of their health savings account and flexible spending account funds toward sports and fitness purchases, including golf lessons and greens fees. Photo by Darren Carroll

The PHIT Act almost made it through the House of Representatives six years ago, passing through the House, but not in its entirety. At the time Golf was excluded from the act. The bill attracted some heavy hitters in 2022, when it was endorsed by major professional sports organizations — National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League. The PHIT Act was reintroduced last year by U.S. Representatives Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) along with members of the House Committee on Ways and Means and U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Thune.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s Sells, who got the whole process started, continues to swing for the fences because he believes in it. The PHIT acronym was his idea, partly due to his birthplace. “I’m from Philly (Philadelphia). Born and raised. I was trying to come up with something clever. Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute … personal health (thus, the PH part of the acronym he sought), to capture what the bill stands for,” says Sells.

Sells adds that golf adds an accessible activity to the bill’s list of benefts “We think golf is not only a physical activity; it’s an activity a grandparent can do with a grandchild. There are very few activities that are multigenerational, but golf is one. And it is good for your health.”

Sells’ optimism about the PHIT Act’s future grows by the day, partly because of GCSAA’s support. “They bring in more people to speak to Congress, maybe more than anybody involved. We appreciate superintendents, appreciate them talking about PHIT. They’re good ambassadors about growing the game, lowering the cost barrier.”

Michael Lee, GCSAA’s senior manager, government affairs, says, “The PHIT Act is just good policy, which is why it consistently has bipartisan support. Golf is a lifelong game with great mental and physical health benefits. Anything we can do to encourage more physical activity that helps prevent chronic diseases and improves cardiovascular health is worth pursuing.”

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor.