Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Golf in Xinjiang: An Elite Sport in a Poor Province

A short distance south of Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi there is a portion of beautiful land known as Nanshan, or “South Mountains”. For years tourist and locals have traveled away from the noisy, polluted city life seeking the peaceful scenery that Nanshan provides, but soon they will have an entirely different reason to visit: a new luxury golf course.

A Growing Golf Market in Xinjiang?

Of course, very few people I met in Xinjiang know how to play golf – much less can afford to – but that’s beside the point. The worldwide image of golf as an elite, rich-man’s sport has somehow enticed developers in one of China’s poorer provinces to begin building golf courses.

Xinjiang's Nanshan grasslands being bulldozed for a new golf course

Nanshan partially bulldozed for new luxury golf course. Photo by Zara Arshad

It should be noted that golf won’t be the first sport to entertain visitors of Nanshan. As you can see from the picture, skiing has become quite popular among the Xinjiang middle class as well (note the ski lift). Ski resorts have popped up everywhere around Urumqi and a few other wealthier Xinjiang cities.

Skiing, however, is affordable. Golf is not. So the question remains: if you build it, will they come?

Golfing in the Middle of Nowhere

Karamay is a small, young city by China standards (pop: 200,000, 50 yrs old). It is located in northern Xinjiang about 4 hours away from Urumqi and boasts one of the highest standards of living anywhere in China thanks to the booming oil industry.

A golf course in Karamay, Xinjiang

An empty golf course in Karamay, Xinjiang

Part of the excess money that has poured into the city thanks to oil has been spent on a million-dollar city park, incredible water attractions, and – now – a golf course. Every day people young and old flock to the park and every evening hundreds gather to watch the water and light show along the man-made river.

Not once in four years did I ever see anybody play on that golf course.

The course is beautiful, well-kept and dotted with lovely fake oil rigs. I was quite interested to play a round of golf there but unfortunately I could find no person to play with me. The cost was too high for my Chinese and Uyghur friends and they didn’t even know how to play.

A fake oil rig on the Karamay golf course in Xinjiang, China

The State of Golf in China

Dan Washburn, a Shanghai-based writer, teamed up with photographer Ryan Pyle earlier this year for a Financial Times story about a secret new golf course in China’s Hainan province.

In the article Dan dives into the world of golf in China and how, despite a moratorium on golf course construction, developers are working to finish the largest collection of golf courses in the world. How then, can these courses in Hainan be built? How can Xinjiang be constructing new courses if it’s against the law? Dan’s answer:

There’s an answer to these questions, too, and it is also China. In the years since the government announced its supposed golf course moratorium, the number of courses has nearly trebled to an estimated 600 or so. In China, there is always a way.

Naturally all the money spent on golf raises concerns of corruption. Last week government officials in Wenzhou were given an ultimatum: either quit a new golf association or take part in a “self-criticism”. Needless to say, most of them chose the former.

Why Golf?

Despite the moratorium on course construction, despite the government frowning on golf association memberships, despite the few people in Xinjiang who can afford to play – construction of the Nanshan golf course continues.

But why?

An advertisement for golf in XinjiangMaybe it’s the internationally-promoted image of golf as representative of a developed country or city. Tourism literature like what you see on the left boasts high-class facilities available to businessmen and foreign visitors.

Maybe the upper-class Chinese really do enjoy golf and are a market ready to be tapped. Whatever the reason, it has the potential to further divide Xinjiang’s rich and poor in a way that can’t easily be overlooked.

Interesting how luxury golf courses are being built in an area that is receiving trillions of dollars in government aid, don’t you think?

Article written by: Xinjiangfarwestchina.com

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem hints at more events in Asia

By Doug Ferguson (CP) – 1 day ago

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — The PGA Tour already has the West Coast Swing, the Florida Swing and now the Texas Swing. It might not be long before it has an Asian Swing after the FedEx Cup portion of the season is over.

In two years, the PGA Tour already has grown to two events there. It returns to Shanghai on Nov. 4-7 for a World Golf Championship, this time treating the HSBC Champions as an official victory if a tour member is holding the trophy. A week earlier is the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and offers a $6 million purse.

And after that? Stay tuned.

"We're looking at possibilities in Japan, Korea, China," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "I'm not saying we will, but we may very well do a short series over there in the fall in the next two or three years. If we're going to get serious about a presence in Asia, it would probably argue for a short series."

The Malaysia event was not a critical building block in such a series. It has a short field — the top 25 players available from the FedEx Cup standings to fill a 40-man field at The Mines Resort and Golf Club — and Finchem said the Asian Pacific Classic "pre-dated what might developing into a serious strategy."

"If it continues, it will be part of it (an Asia series) in some fashion," he said.

Finchem, who took an 18-day working vacation through Asia last fall, said he will be returning this year. However, Finchem didn't make it sound like any series was around the corner. Asked if the tour was close to arranging an event in Japan, he flatly replied, "no."

"I don't see us announcing any details on that by the end of the year," he said.

Friday, May 28, 2010

China' Mission Hills Boosts Hainan Spending on Tourism Demand

By Wing-Gar Cheng
May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Mission Hills Group, owner of the world’s largest golf club, will boost investment sixfold in a golfing complex on China’s Hainan island as the nation’s economic rebound spurs a tourism and property boom.
Mission Hills, based in Shenzhen, the southern city adjacent to Hong Kong, is to spend a further 25 billion yuan ($3.7 billion) by adding more golfing, retail and community facilities at its 5 billion-yuan club in Haikou, in the island’s north, Vice Chairman Ken Chu said in an interview in Hong Kong.
“We have confidence in the rise in Chinese consumption and them having a holiday mentality,” Chu said yesterday. “We see the growth of the game and we see the growth of this business sector.”
Economic growth increased the number of millionaires in China to 875,000 in 2009, according to Hurun Research Institute, helping boost tourism and property development on tropical, beach-fringed Hainan. Mission Hills is switching its focus from foreigners to Chinese golfers as the nation’s newly wealthy seek aspirational leisure pursuits, Chu said.
China’s approval of Hainan, a southern province, as an international tourism hub in January sent property prices soaring. They rose 50.5 percent in the provincial capital Haikou in February, and 49.3 percent in the southern resort city of Sanya, according to government data. In April, prices jumped 53.3 percent in Haikou and 52.3 percent in Sanya.
The designation allows for the construction of resorts, expansion of facilities to cater to exhibitions and conventions, and eventually the opening of duty-free shopping.
‘More Gains’
“There might be more gains, especially as the people who buy homes are the rich mainland ones who want to invest in or buy properties for their holidays,” Wang Ren, a Hong Kong-based property analyst at CCB International Holding Ltd., said in a phone interview. “As there are more and more rich Chinese, golf will become more popular.”
Mission Hills opened a 12-course club, the world’s largest, in 1992 in the southern province of Guangdong, catering mostly to foreign golfers, who made up 80 percent of its customers. It is now targeting Chinese players who have grown rich in an economic boom that sent annual urban wages 64 percent higher to 17,175 yuan in the five years to 2009.
The Hainan club, built on top of a volcano, opened in March offering an initial six courses, according to company data. The group is operating it as a public, rather than a members-only, facility to attract more golfers, Chu said.
30 Courses
When fully completed, the Hainan club will feature 10 courses, according to the company, and will be similar in size to the Shenzhen complex, which spreads across 20 square kilometers (5,000 acres), or equivalent to the combined size of six Central Parks in New York City. The Hainan government, meanwhile, suggests on its website that the development may eventually have 30 courses.
Southern China, particularly the Pearl River Delta region and Hainan, will remain Mission Hills’ core investment area in China, Chu said. The group has about 6,000 corporate and individual members at its Shenzhen club, which has 10,000 employees, he said. The Hainan club currently has 2,000 staff.
Since golf was added to the Olympics program in October, the number of people playing the game has risen to 5 million from 3 million, according to China Golf Association. China topped the gold-medal standings at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“The country will be spending money to promote the game, to build the younger generation to participate in the sport,” Chu said. “There’s a chance for them to win a gold medal and golf is a game in which the Chinese can excel.”
--With assistance from Chia-Peck Wong in Hong Kong. Editors: Mark McCord, Garry Smith.
To contact the reporter on this story: Wing-Gar Cheng in Hong Kong at wgcheng@bloomberg.net.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Golf in China: Targeting 3 Million Players

The Wall Street Journal

China is one of the few places globally still building golf courses. As Dow Jones Investment Banker reports, potential sand traps and water hazards mean this may provide an opportunity for buyout firms and course-management companies that cut their teeth turning around busted courses in places such as the U.S. and Japan.

Growth potential for the game does exist in China, but it’s too expensive for most people; stir in a potential golf-course building glut–in the holiday island of Hainan, at least–and returns could get clobbered, pushing weak operators to the wall.

Getting accurate statistics on Chinese golf is difficult. The China Golf Association, for example, thinks there are around 500 courses; KPMG believes it was nearer 300 at end-2008. Muddying the water is a widely flouted 2004 moratorium on new golf-course construction.

Meanwhile, estimates for the number of golfers range from 300,000 to three million! KPMG thinks the number of club members who play regularly is nearer 300,000, partly due to national average initial membership fees being an eye-watering $50,000–4.5 times the level in Spain–and average weekend green fees that weigh in at $150. Depending which statistics you use, there could be as few as 600 players per course in China, suggesting heavy oversupply resulting in around one-sixth the amount of players on China’s fairways compared with in Japan, or an equally extreme dearth of courses, with 10,000 players per course, or 5.3 times more players teeing off on a typical Chinese course than on its American equivalent.

Granted even the three million golfer figure — just 0.2% of China’s population–suggests plenty of room for expansion before the game’s popularity approached what it is in, say, Japan, where it is played by roughly 7% of the population.

China’s courses are concentrated mainly in the wealthy or temperate eastern and southern provinces, such as Beijing, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Hainan.

Hainan, interestingly, is exempt from the 2004 new-course ban, as part of efforts to build out the tourism industry and cater to an expected influx of tourists wielding their five-irons.

The island currently has 21 courses, according to the 2009-2010 Golf Course Guide to China, and quite how many more courses it intends to build is unclear. Some reports put a long-term goal of 100 courses on the island, while others talk of 50 new courses within three years. One Asian golf course operator told Dow Jones Investment Banker that he believed the number would be nearer to 30 new courses over the coming decade.

None of the Chinese golf club operators is listed, so it’s hard to know financial positions and breakeven points. But Japanese operators Accordia Golf Co. Ltd. and Pacific Golf Group International Holdings K.K. make good operating profits from about 150 rounds per day being played at their 130-odd courses each. A former course manager in China told us those levels would be equivalent to peak seasonal play in China, however.

Assuming 350,000 Chinese players today–slightly more than KPMG’s figure–and that the number grows at a rude 10% annual clip gives 900,000 players by 2020. If 40% of those players came to Hainan for a five-day break to play 7-8 rounds, that yields about 1,000 local players per day playing a total 2.7 million rounds for the year. At 152 rounds per day per course that implies the island could support 50 courses by 2020 based on quite rosy domestic demand assumptions and allow the courses to be EBIT profitable assuming a cost structure similar to the listed Japanese plays. Still, the assumptions underpinning that are quite bullish.

Clearly 80-100 courses over the next decade means the island is either going to need to attract a lot more foreign players, or operators will need to change their business model from a luxury service to a mass-market approach in order to create the volume to generate necessary cash flows, or many of those courses will either never be built or some operators will need to go under. What’s more likely is that some combination of the above needs to occur.

When a shake-out happens, it could prove an opportunity for investment funds and savvy course operators too. In Japan, Goldman Sachs and Lone Star made names for themselves through buying up bankrupt courses in the wake of the real-estate bust there, and in the U.S., KSL Capital Partners bought out ClubCorp Inc. in 2006.

Japan’s Accordia Golf paid an average 1.67 billion yen for Ebitda of 0.2 billion yen for acquisitions in 2009, according to Macquarie, which equates to a going-in cap-rate of 12% for courses from mainly distressed sellers.

That could be a benchmark rate if Hainan overshoots in its golf course roll-out.

-Jamie Miyazaki

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Asian Tour Chief believes China could follow Korea

By Martin Parry (AFP) – 1 day ago
SINGAPORE — Asian Tour chief Kyi Hla Han believes Chinese players could follow their South Korean counterparts out of the OneAsia Tour, which on Wednesday sought to salvage a boycott of its events.
OneAsia, which was established last year by bringing together tours from China, South Korea and Australia to rival the Asian Tour, was dealt a heavy blow on Tuesday when Korean golfers voted to pull out of its tournaments.
In a statement issued on behalf of 110 Korea Professional Golfers' Association players, they claimed OneAsia was not working on their behalf.
They were unhappy at the number of places available to locals at next week's Maekyung Open and the SK Telecom Open as well as OneAsia simply absorbing existing tournaments and offering nothing new.
Concern was also voiced that it was being dictated by commercial, and not player, interests.
In an open letter, OneAsia chairman Sang Y. Chun and chief executive Ben Sellenger urged them to rethink.
"The Korean Golf Tour and its members are very important to the development and success of OneAsia in developing Korean champions," the letter said.
It warned that if the boycott was carried out at the Maekyung Open next week, KGT eligibility for all remaining OneAsia events would be removed.
"This is obviously the last resort and one which we would like to avoid at all cost."
It said more than 90 positions would be made available to Koreans at the Maekyung tournament and 70 at the SK Telecom.
OneAsia also stressed it was not commercially owned.
"OneAsia is founded by the KPGA, the KGA, China Golf Association and PGA of Australia and has no commercial ownership," it said.
"The object of OneAsia is to maximise elite playing opportunities of the leading golfers from across the region."
Kyi Hla Han said OneAsia was becoming "a laughing stock" and made clear he would welcome Korean players and events back onto the Asian Tour.
"We hope they come back to the Asian Tour," he told AFP, adding that he had been talking to sponsors in Korea who were interested.
The Asian Tour used to host both the Maekyung and SK Telecom events.
"We have been talking to a lot of sponsors in Korea and have been getting a good response," he said.
"We're working on our 2011 schedule already. Sponsors are very interested.
"We just do what other tours like the European Tour do and they are successful. I think the Koreans now realise that."
With most Korean players vowing to skip the remaining nine events on the OneAsia calendar, held mostly in China and Australia, Kyi Hla Han suggested that Chinese golfers would be watching developments very closely.
Asked if they could follow suit, he said: "I was talking to a few Chinese players last week and they feel that too many places (in OneAsia events) are being taken by Australians.
"That could follow Korea. Some players have already shown dissent."
China is a different proposition though, with the China Golf Association a government organisation which has aligned itself with OneAsia and squeezed out the Asian Tour. There is no player representative body, or PGA, in China.
Kyi Hla Han said he was open to further talks with the CGA.
"I think the opportunities for Chinese players have lessened," he said.
"I hope to work with China again. I'd like to hold talks and see if what we have is attractive to them. We can bring tournaments in."
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Return on investment: China's wealthy embrace junior golf

CHENGDU, China (Reuters Life!) - China's wealthy have no qualms about spending on luxury lifestyles, but one sport has got them especially excited due to its potential investment returns: golf lessons for the kids.
From the tee to the green, golf is an expensive affair in China and one that is seen as a status symbol. But those who can afford it are signing up their children in droves, hoping to transform them into the next Tiger Woods.
"Many parents and children are becoming engaged in the sport. In the past, golf reached a relatively small group of people, but now it's becoming more and more widespread," said Cui Zhiqiang, vice-president of the China Golf Association.
"The prospects are looking very good, with more people getting involved in junior golf, which is gaining greater public attention and recognition in society."
Once considered bourgeois, golf was banned by China's Communist Party, and the country's first golf course was only built in 1984.
But with an explosion of interest in recent years, some parents are now prepared to fork out around 300,000 yuan ($43,940) year on lessons for the children.
Last weekend, the country's future golf stars teed off in the fourth China Junior Golf Open Tournament held in Chengdu, capital of China's southwestern Sichuan province.
Organised by the China Golf Association with high-profile sponsorship, the tournament costs each participant more than 10,000 yuan, almost 10 times the monthly income of an average Chinese factory worker.
Though statistically less than one percent of China's population play golf today, more courses and rising incomes mean the sport is becoming more accessible to the elite. Yang Manlixiang, 7, has been playing golf for over three years and wants to become a professional golfer. For her, it's more than just a sport.
"Playing golf can earn me a lot of money," Yang said.
Yang's father, Yang Quan, is also prepared to pay big money to train his daughter to go professional in the future.
"I have not carefully calculated the cost of training my daughter to play golf. But I think I need to invest at least four or five million yuan altogether. I need to keep her training and attending tournaments," he said.
While many junior golfers, especially teenagers, dream of going pro, for many more, golf is just a little more than a after-school pursuit akin to piano-playing.
China, where golf was once labelled 'green opium' because it was seen as expensive and elitist, only has around 500 courses, compared to 18,000 courses in the U.S. and an estimated 6,000 in Europe.
While China's state sport system pays for the training of professional athletes in most sports, golf is one of the few in which individuals must cover all the training expenses.
But last year's decision to add golf to the Olympic programme from 2014 has helped further spark interest in developing the sport, and its inclusion will see more government funding for the sport.
When the country's formidable Soviet-style sports system joins wealthy parents in pushing young golfers, China could be a golfing force to be reckoned with in the future.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Friday, December 12, 2008

Golf looks to Asia for future growth, but lack of access impedes progress

Golf looks to Asia for future growth, but lack of access impedes progress

This is worth the read... the two markets (America and Asia) are quite different and to require different localized approaches.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Asia Golf Industry Magazine

Here is a great down loadable e-zine for the golf business in Asia.

Click Here

Friday, August 29, 2008

Make Golf Olympic???

Many of us in the Middle Kingdom were hoping for golf to be voted into the Beijing Olympics. The organizers were even considering it as China lays claim to the birthplace of golf. If you want to know more about their claim read on....
"China - Birthplace of Golf?"

If you care to read more about the possibilties of Golf being an Olympic sport in 2016, read on...
Make Golf Olympic

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

College days mark another step in Chinese golf's revolution


Tim Maitland

This autumn two teenagers will enroll, almost unnoticed, in US Colleges. For Chinese golf, however, a butterfly is flapping its wings on one side of the world and causing a hurricane on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

The freshmen-to-be are Hu Mu, who will play collegiate golf for the University of Florida Gators, and Wang Minghao, who will swing in the colours of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

They join Han Ren, who last year became the first Chinese-born athlete to play men's collegiate golf in the US when he joined the University of Indiana Hoosiers, and will be swiftly followed next year by James Su Dong, who like Han has been based in British Columbia, Canada since 2003.

These are the so-called Third Generation of Chinese golfers and they couldn't be more different from their predecessors.

In a nutshell the first and second generations, led respectively by Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong, came from backgrounds where golf was barely known as a sport and buying a club was a luxury. In the cases of Wang and Su, the third generation have fathers who have owned golf clubs; luxury clubhouse, 18 holes and all.

"Me, Hu Mu, Han Ren we're from wealthy families, we can say that. We have had good educations," explains James Su.

"I went to a private kindergarten when I was four. From the private kindergarten I went to a private primary school and a private high school. Our parents can pay this sort of money. Zhang Lianwei, his parents, were humble people. They were living in poverty. They couldn't get any help from their parents. Zhang went looking for a job (in golf) to help pay for food."

Unlike their predecessors, the young guns are all fluent English speakers which opens up the whole lexicon of golf instruction, essential in a country where the sport is so new it has yet to produce its first truly elite-level coaches.

"The quality of their education is one of the reasons why I believe they will go to a higher level," says Zhang.

"Because they have English, they can discuss golf with other players from outside China. And they're not afraid to play with players from the European and US Tours. They are international players."

In terms of golf experience the current teenagers have already been playing golf for the same length of time as the second generation professionals, have probably played a similar number of tournaments and have certainly had significantly more and much better tutoring.

"If I'd started like these guys I'd probably be on the PGA Tour now. I'd probably be in the top 10. If I'd started like them, who knows?" Zhang smilingly states.

Consider the landscape when players like Zhang first started competing. The first modern course in China opened in Zhongshan in the southern province of Guangdong in 1984. Zhang first touched a club a year later at nearby Zhuhai Golf Club.

"When I started there were only two golf courses in China. Before the age of 20 I didn't know anything about golf; nothing at all!" recalls the godfather of Chinese professionals.

"When I started I got no support; nothing. I was like a blind man. Hitting balls every day, but having no idea why they went where they went. Each year there was only one tournament to play in; the China Amateur Open. I practiced the whole year just for one tournament!"

Many of the current professionals can tell similar stories. Almost all made a start through ancillary jobs at courses or driving ranges. Most had no inkling what the sport was until they started work. The only difference being that many of the second generation got their introduction to the sport in their late teens rather than their twenties. Under such circumstances it's amazing to think that Zhang has gone on to be the first Chinese to win a European PGA Tour event and the first to play in a Major, while Liang has gone one step further by becoming the first Chinese to win the Asian Tour's Order of Merit in 2007.

In comparison, the new kids on the block started early. The product of the quantum shift in China that helped move the country toward the socialist market economy.

"We have had a better start. At 18 Zhang wasn't even playing golf and Liang had barely started," admitted Hu Mu, whose father made his money in escalators and elevators, introduced him to golf at the age of seven, moved him to the IMG Academy in Florida at the age of 11 and has had him coached by David Leadbetter for the past five years.

"If you look at Zhang's career, he started golf at 20 years old and just caddied and practiced. It's unbelievable where he got to. And it's the same thing with Liang. He practices so hard; literally 12 hours a day. They got themselves to this point just by themselves without anybody telling them anything... maybe with a little help from friends, but not in golf. In golf alone they just had to figure everything out," said Hu, echoing the respect for his elders that all his generation seem to share.

Hu Mu is realistic enough to recognize that the real "future" of Chinese golf is the generation that comes after his.

"I can be sure in 10 years time there'll be like five more junior golfers with my talent. There are so many people with really good feel and really good talent who are aged 8, 9, 10. In 10 years time they'll be such good players. More and more people are playing golf in China so it's only going to get better," he said.

Importantly, China now has a structure in place through which its players can develop.

Introduced in 2007 the HSBC China Junior Golf Program is a partnership between HSBC, the world's local bank, the China Golf Association (CGA) and global sports marketing firm IMG.

"There are two sides to the plan. One is to select talented people and develop them into stars. The other side is to get more and more kids playing golf. We're building a bridge to get more and more children of various ages interested in golf. We're trying to make each generation bigger. The system is getting bigger and bigger," says Song Liangliang, the Deputy Secretary General of the CGA.

The programme includes a season-long HSBC National Junior Golf Championship, which in 2008 consists of seven legs leading to a finale just before the US$5 million HSBC Champions in November, as well as the HSBC China Junior Open. Other key elements include a national ranking system, and golf camps.

"We've worked together to design an expandable structure that helps the CGA identify and develop its young talent, hence the rankings, the camps and the season-long tournament structure," explains HSBC Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan.

"The programme has started working in 40 schools this year and will continue to expand. We're also playing a role in increasing the education and enhancing the quality of information available to China's golf coaches.

"It's a dual strategy; first to ensure the kids have the proper channels along which to improve through proper competition, proper ranking points and a proper sense of progression. This ensures a generation coming through that is developed and educated. Then we want to put the building blocks in place to ensure that the future generations grow in numbers, thus broadening the talent pool as well as further developing the size of the golf market," says Giles Morgan.

China is on the verge of producing it's first generation of golfers who, thanks to the individual wealth of their parents, will be able to compete on a level playing field internationally in as much as they have started the sport at a similar age to the rivals and have had as good an upbringing in the sport. Whatever success they have as professionals will only fuel the growth of a sport that is finally in a position to tap into the potential power that a population of 1.4 billion brings. As Hu Mu points out, once you add in the appetite for excellence, success is a given.

"China was the strongest country for forever. We went down a little bit but now we're coming back," he says.

"The whole thing is if Chinese people want to do something they want to be the best…. and they do it!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sports Management in the Middle Kingdom

Like many sports in China, Golf is stopping this Summer for the Olympic Games. The Omega China Tour is enjoying a nice three month break before it starts back up in September.

The question in many sports managers mind for China is what will companies do with funding for sports after the Olympic Games? Will Olympic advertising go to other sports for sponsorships or will it be pushed to other areas of society. Many other people are wondering what will happen with the event facilities. They have made spectacular events and many will be used over and over as many are on collage campuses. However, there are a few that will need to be managed.

The NBA China was formed this year as the NBA USA is very popular in China. NBA USA is a key partner in this. This shows the interest in sports in China. It will be interesting to see how the sports management industry develops in China. Here is an article regarding NBA China: http://www.nba.com/news/nba_china_080114.html

Regarding Golf Course management... China has seen a lot of players trying to get into this market. Many of the large companies like ClubCorp and Troon have tried the Chinese market. Many of the big organizations stay for 2-3 years and fizzle. Many local Chinese management groups have started up but there hasn't been a hybrid of a management company started between foreign and locals. I will write more about this in a future article.

Here in Beijing, things are changing daily. The last few pieces of infrastructure for the Olympics are finishing up. From what locals tell me, many construction sites will be stopping soon as the last push to make Beijing cleaner starts. Beijing is becoming a beautiful city and should be even nicer when the Games finish.

Asian Golf Monthly

For those who want to keep up more with golf in Asia, here is a good website with on-line magazine: http://www.asiangolfmonthly.com/

Monday, May 5, 2008

Golf struggles to make mark in China

By Steven Jiang
Editor's note: "Beijing Journal" is an occasional series examining China's capital as it prepares for the 2008 Summer Games. This report looks at life outside the capital in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- Longtime sports writer Dan Washburn does not hide his disappointment that his favorite game has failed to make the cut for an appearance at the upcoming Beijing Olympics.


Chinese pro golfer Zhou Xunshu stumbled upon the sport when he was a security guard.

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"If golf were part of the Summer Games, it would make a huge difference for its growth here," said the Shanghai-based American freelance journalist, who has been covering the sport's nascent China Tour for ESPN.

"It would give golf government blessing, which would translate into state funding and mandatory news coverage."

The presumptive limelight would bring a welcome change for Washburn, 34, who has often found himself part of a tiny media contingent on the green since he began reporting on the tournament in the summer of 2006.

In a country where playing a round of golf costs about $100 and the average income hovers just above $2,000 a year, Washburn is not surprised to see most Chinese media and people show little knowledge or interest in the "elite" sport.

But ample access to Chinese professional golfers -- many of whom appreciate the rare attention -- has drawn Washburn deeply into their fascinating world.

"They are poor men playing the rich man's game," Washburn observed. "If they were not playing golf, they would be working in the field farming."

This is the case of Zhou Xunshu, a 35-year-old pro golfer Washburn befriended during his first China Tour assignment, who grew up in a mountain village in the country's impoverished southwest.

Like many of his peers, Zhou stumbled upon golf when he left his hometown to pursue a better life in the big cities. He became a security guard on a golf course in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou before even realizing the sport's existence.

The mundane job sparked Zhou's interest in the strange game -- he started sneaking out at night, rolling balls on the green and working on his swings with a broken club.

It was not until six years later at the age of 29, however, that Zhou was able to practice semi-regularly when a sympathetic manager allowed him play on the course in early mornings.

By the time Washburn met him, it was already Zhou's second year on the tour.

This season, Zhou -- who makes less than $1,000 per month as a driving range instructor and has to cover his own tour expenses -- placed 9th among 91 players after three events, earning him some $5,600.

"What sets him apart is he is not just playing for the prize money -- he is driven and wants to be one of the best," Washburn said.

"His is the ultimate underdog story."

Washburn is turning the story to a book about golf in China, having followed Zhou from the courses to his wedding and even his remote home village.

Hoping to bring attention and help to players like Zhou, Washburn nevertheless insists his book -- titled "Par for China" -- is not just about golf but about the country seen through the sport.

"Golf is a barometer for China's political and economic rise," he said. "It's a symbol of so many issues affecting the country now -- the gap between the rich and the poor, environmental problems, land use, official corruption and historical prejudice."

Despite all the hurdles, Washburn feels optimistic about golf's future in China.

He would love to see the sport -- after three decades of absence in the early Communist era -- trickle down to the masses.

Currently most of the China's million-strong golfers hail from the nouveau riche class and enjoy their game in the country's 400 exclusive clubs.

For the Chinese Tiger Woods to emerge, Washburn believes the system has to change to attract more young talent, regardless of their backgrounds.

"They need public courses," he offered. "And they need a Chinese player in the world's top ten -- someone like the NBA's Yao Ming -- to raise public awareness and inspire a new generation of golfers."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some interesting thoughts about China

Here are some fascinating highlights from McKinsey entitled, “Preparing for China’s Urban Billion.”

- By 2025, China will have 221 cities with more than one million
inhabitants – compared with 35 in Europe today.

- China’ urban population will expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926
million in 2025. Over 350 million people will move from rural areas
to the cities – more than the population of the United States.

- By 2025, China could have 15 super-cities with average populations
of 25 million people. 41 percent of China’s higher income middle
class will live in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, Chongqing,
, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

- China will build almost 40 billion square meters of floor space
over the next 20 years, requiring construction of 50,000 new
skyscrapers – the equivalent of ten New York Cities.

- Up to 170 cities could meet planning criteria for mass-transit
systems by 2025, more than twice the current number in Europe. This
could promise to be the greatest boom in mass-transit construction in

- China’s urban economy will generate 90 percent of its GDP by 2025.
Urban China will become a dominant global market with its aggregate
consumption almost twice, and disposable income over two times, those
of Germany.

Friday, April 4, 2008

China Golf Show 2008

The 2008 Beijing China Golf Show wrapped up over the past weekend. The show continues to grow each year as the golf industry continues to grow at a fast past on the Mainland. The majority of exhibitors are American, Australian, and local golf companies. Golf giants like Titleist, Taylormade, Mizuno all have a presence along with services and large equipment manufacturers like Toro and John Deere.

For the most part the show is like the show in the United States where it is a networking event for golf industry professionals in China. Some of the newer offerings this year were an expanded presence of golf travel as the RMB has appreciated nicely the Chinese have more in their pocket as they travel overseas. In addition, this year a nice driving range at the back of the show was added as a nice amenity for locals to try different clubs. Many manufacturers pushed fitting clubs rather than simply buying clubs off the rack as many Chinese are custom to doing.

Here is the show website for more details: http://www.chinagolfshow.com/en/gz_show2007.asp

Saturday, March 22, 2008

2008 Omega China Tour Kicks Off

In its fourth year, the Omega China Tour was kicked off last week. This year the tour is comprised of ten events. The main sponsor is Omega along with several large global companies. Each event consists of roughly 130 players. Ten foreign professional have exempt status and some other foreign invitations are given out. To learn more about the tour, you can go to the tour website at: www.omegachinatour.com.

In 2008, three Chinese professionals qualified to play in the Asian Tour. As China golf continues to develop more and more players will venture out to the Asian Tour and US / European Tours. This year, Liang Wen Chong, China's number one player will play in The Masters. Jia You! (Good Luck, Play well)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One Asia Tour closer to reality by Colin Wilson

A new professional *OneAsia Tour*, basically covering the whole western side of the Pacific, could tee up by 2009 after Japan's decision to back the plan. The OneAsia Tour has been on the drawing board for more than two years.

The initial goal is to play 20 tournaments with a minimum prize purse of $US1.5 million, although some tournaments would be worth twice that amount. Australia would look to have four or five tournaments as part of the new Tour.

"It absolutely makes sense that all the bodies in the region act together to try to create something bigger than the disparate parts," said Ben Sellenger of the Australasian PGA Tour. "This is the way forward."

The Japanese Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia have signed a memorandum of understanding to create the OneAsia Tour and are now talking with the Asian Tour and golf officials in China, South Korea, Thailand and India about signing up to the new circuit.

"Internationalisation for our players is critical as we need to have international stars from Japan," said Andy Yamanaka, chief secretary of the Japan Tour. "By working together, it is going to be a huge benefit for sponsors too as the exposure will be worldwide."

The biggest hurdle now will be formulating how the Tour would be structured, what representation each country has and how players qualify for it.

"It absolutely makes sense that all the bodies in the region act together to try to create something bigger than the disparate parts, said Sellenger. "It's a huge step for Japan to make that decision to support it."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PGA Professional's life in China

Click on the web page below to see the article:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PGA of Australia agrees to develop regimen for Chinese golf trainers

An interesting article on how the the PGA of Australia is developing a training program for Chinese coaches.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

China Golf at the PGA Show

During the middle of January, the PGA Show was held in Orlando, FL. This was the first year an official delegation from China attended the show. There were twelve golf industry professionals who attended the PGA Show including Zhang Xiao Ning who is head of the Small Ball Sports for China (includes things like Tennis, Ping Pong, and Golf)

Sports in China are a little different from other countries. I will add a blog entry about sports in China at a later date. For a simple explanation: athletes are typically chosen at an early age and trained full-time in the sport officials feel they will excel. Sport and Sports Management is changing quite a bit in China with the Olympics being held this year.

During the PGA Show, there was a one hour spotlight on “Golf in China”. There were three speakers for this event: Zhang Xiao Ning, Director of Small Ball Sports; The General Manager for Spring City Golf Club (The top club in China), and Vice President for Octagon Sports. They each
had their own spin regarding golf in China but all had the same outcome: THE FUTURE IS VERY BRIGHT FOR GOLF IN CHINA.

During the session, it was stated that there are over 400 courses in the country at present. Golf Course construction is being controlled as it strains water and land resources in a country of 1.3 billion people. The China Golf Association official stated that they are working three strategies to make golf more of a game for the masses: 1 – returning the land to the original state by constructing golf courses, 2 – Serving the public, 3 – Serving youth. While course construction is controlled, a China Golf Association official stated that courses are increasing at 30% per year.

Among the three speakers, they stated there are currently between one and three million golfers in China. From my own sources I have heard numbers as low as three hundred thousand. Nevertheless, it was said that by 2020 China will boast more than twenty million golfers. Twenty million golfers are numbers like the United States is boasting now. If that is the case, the next sleeping giant in the golf world is definitely in Asia. As the middle class in China continues to grow, it is said that by 2020, China will boast a middle class of around 700 million. At this point, the masses will be able to enjoy golf, at least hitting balls at a driving range.

It is said that there are currently around 2,000 playing amateurs that want to turn pro and there are around 300 professional players in the country at present. In 2008, China Golf tournaments for professionals will cross a new barrier as there will be over twenty million dollars in prize money in tournaments such as the HSBC Champions, Asian Tour, and the Omega China Tour.

Some things the China Golf Association official stated was their goal to build a teaching training system and a more formalized competition system. He stated the CGA is currently starting to work with the Australian PGA in developing the coaching system for developing the
future coaches in China. Regarding competition, HSBC has signed on to be the sponsor of the “Junior Golf Development Program”. He stated that in early 2008, a more formalized competition system will be started for Professionals, Amateurs, and Youth.

The CGA official gave a request to PGA Members for help in the areas of golf management, tournament management, coaching development, and other general development areas. He stated that the CGA is interested in creating industry standards and research sharing with other countries.

This is a great start for China’s relation with the PGA of America. I hope there will be many good years of cooperation between the two organizations in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

SARS... a catalyst for Golf

If you can remember back to 2003 the SARS epidemic started to spread from Hong Kong. For me, this was my first chance to come to Asia. I took advantage of the cheap airfares, knowing they would have it under control. And, now, here I am in Asia living and working.

SARS was a airborne epidemic that spread throughout many large cities in Asia. One of the cities affected was Beijing. Over the past two years living in Beijing, I have heard on numerous occasions that people starting playing golf when SARS hit. It is a really interesting phenomenon. The reason many people started playing golf is because people wanted to be outdoors. During that time, if you were indoors, you may catch the virus if someone sneezed or coughed. So, many people wanted to get outside and away from others. There you have it, a pretty large group of the Beijing golfers started playing when SARS hit.

Now, Beijing has around fifty golf clubs and over one-hundred driving ranges. The golf industry is hot here and is the second best market behind Guangdong Province in the South.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

China Tour Stories

This year my parter and I have been traveling with the Omega China Tour. It is an interesting tour that is three years old. The tour is professionally run and has a look and feel like any other major tour you would visit in the world.

We have traveled to each stop coaching and helping many of the tour professionals. It has been fun building relationships with the touring professionals in China. They all have different stories of how they decided on playing golf. What you have to realize is that most of the touring professionals are the best coaches in their hometowns. Therefore, there aren't many professional coachs to help them out. With this situation, we have seen many homegrown swings.

There are also a lot of homegrown stories of how they became interested in golf. There is an American following the tour especially one player this year. He is compiling information for a book he is writing: ParForChina. The American writer is writing about golf in China and the stories of the players on the China Tour. I look forward to seeing the finished product. One of the players he is following started working as a security guard at a golf course. Later, he started practicing at night and now he is a China Tour player ranked in the top 15. I am always intrigued to find out more about each of the players stories. There are players that were ex-baseball players, weigh-lifters, kungfu artists, motorcross racers, the list goes on... It is an interesting time to work in the golf business in China.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One year until the Olympics!

This week, Beijing celebrated the one year anniversary to the Olympic Games here in 2008. I unfortunately was in Jiangsu Province at a Golf Tournament and flew in the day of the activities. From the sounds of friends, it was truly impressive. I see the change for the Olympics everyday on my way to work. It truly is incredible the change going on in this city.

For those who don't know, the Olympics will start in 2008 on August 8th at 8pm. You may ask wy so many eights? Well, in China the number eight is a good number. It is the same meaning for success. So, next year the Olympics will start 8, 08, 8008 at 8pm. Not a bad idea if your Chinese. It is going to be an amazing year leading up to the Olympics.

Picture taken from China Daily Website

Thursday, July 19, 2007

China's playing the long game with new Junior Programs

China's junior golf market segment is growing just as fast as the red-hot economy. I continue to see a major increase in excitement toward golf among juniors in China. In addition, many companies are starting to sponsor and support China Junior Golf. Just recently, HSBC made a major announcement. Read the article here: "Golfing authorities play the long game with new junior program"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Golf on the North Korea Border

This past week, I was at the Yan Ji stop on the Omega China Tour. It reminded me of golf in the Northwest in the States. The course was absolutely beautiful. One of the interesting facts is that the course is within twenty minutes to the North Korean Border. The delicacy of the town the city the event was staged was dog meat. I didn't taste it this time. Maybe next!

My partner and I are traveling to each China Tour site coaching and evaluating China Tour players. Our goal is to help grow and develop the Chinese golfers and this is one way to make a contribution. In addition, we want to see the Chinese Tour players get better faster as foreign players will be entering the tour in the years to come.

The following is a picture of hole #8.

The following is a picture of three of the top players next to the NK border. NK is in the background. To see other pictures, visit: www.sina.com.cn (One of the best web portals for golf in China)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Golf Going Mainstream in China

Read the following article regarding the China Golf Association's plan to take golf in China to the masses: Golf Chief: I'll Take Sport into Mainstream