I've often heard this turn of phase to refer to municipal operations of golf courses i.e., the only time middle class Americans receive anything from government is on the golf course. The issue raised its ugly head in Jackson, Mississippi yesterday where the mayor nixed a plan to privatize two local golf courses.
Seems the courses were a major drain on resources - losing about $300,000 annually. The private operator had offered to pay the city $10,000 a year to run the course and give the city 5 percent of profits. City officials estimated that the contract would have saved the city about $105,000 annually -- even though to me it seems like a savings of $300k in losses and a gain of at least $10k in new revenues.
Eitherway it was golfers who stood in the way of privatization....what always confuses me is why is government in this business to begin with? Perhaps even more unsetteling is that I wrote about this back in 2003 and its still happening!
Lisa Snell wrote a great study on golf course privatization a few years back -- check it out here.