With over 1.3 billion people, China is a huge potential market for golf. China’s first golf course was built in 1984 and although around 500 more have sprung up since, a six-year-old government ban on new development has slowed growth. The United States has over 18,000 golf courses, while Europe has an estimated 6,000, leading some to question whether the facilities exist to support a boom in Chinese golf.
“The existing 500 courses are enough for the basic development of golf,” said CGA vice president Wang Liwei. “No matter how many course there are — 500, 1,000 or 10,000 — it is a sport of players. We are also taking alternate measures, such as building driving ranges in public green spaces.”
Last year’s decision to add golf to the Olympic program from 2014 has helped rekindle interest in developing the sport, its inclusion seen as a key factor in the allocation of resources by the state-run sport system. “Entering the Olympics will greatly push forward the development of golf in China,” Wang added.
Even if courses are available, affording to play is nearly out of the question for all but the richest Chinese since joining a golf club costs an average of $53,000, according to a KPMG report. That makes the CGA’s struggle to popularize the game among China’s 1.3 billion people an uphill task, and their youth development strategy all the more important.