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SBD Global/July 15, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship
Golf In China Spreading Fast Due To Country's Economic Boom, Growing Middle Class
Published July 15, 2013
LOOKING FOR A STAR: In the effort "to create a Chinese star, families are not the only ones doubling down." Corporations, too, "are eager to find a figure" -- golf’s version of the basketball star Yao Ming -- who can help "build a sport that appeals to China’s status-conscious elites." And now, "an even bigger player has invested in the quest: the Chinese state." The head of the state-run China Golf Association, Zhang Xiaoning, said golf’s emphasis on technique and mental strength, rather than sheer athleticism, makes it "ideally suited" for the Chinese. The challenge now "is to expand the pool of athletes in a game that is almost the exclusive preserve of the very rich." So far, the CGA "has teamed with corporations to host tournaments, teach golf in primary schools and build a sophisticated national golf training center."
NO PLACE TO PLAY: Thirty years ago, "there were no golfers or golf courses in mainland China." Today "there are around 400,000 regular golfers, a number that could easily double by 2020 as the middle class expands." The number of courses in China "has grown to some 600 today from 170 in 2004, with 1,000 projected by 2020." (The U.S. has 15,000 courses, Japan 2,500.) The CGA’s biggest gambit is an $80M national golf training center "inaugurated last year in Nanshan in Shandong Province, on China’s eastern coast." The facility, built to CGA specifications by the Nanshan Group, a Chinese conglomerate, "is meant to surpass the most advanced training centers in the West." It has "several hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of the latest digital swing technology." Ye's father said that Nike "has been sending Ye a steady supply of free golf clothes and clubs since he was 9." Nike has also signed up British touring pro David Watson as part of its worldwide advisory staff, bringing him to the United States for workshops on fitness and training" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, issue 7/14).