SBJ/May 4 - 10, 1998/No Topic Name

China promises next hot spot

Despite a downturn in the Asian economy. China looms as the next great untapped market for the golf industry.

As trade barriers fall in the Far East, golf companies are looking at China with the hope of dramatically boosting business as the number of American golfers stays static at about 25 million.

"If just 1 percent of China’s population plays, it’s a market of 20 million and that’s a lot of graphite shafts," said Hal Phillips, president of Phillips Golf Media, which tracks the international golf business. "It’s really been the spot that everyone wants to see happen because if it ever gets going it will make the market."

But experts predict that it could take at least another decade before China’s golf market matures – if it ever does.

"China has huge potential," said Lon Fellens, vice president of management and international services at Executive Sports Management Inc., a Florida-based company that runs international tournaments. "But golf there is starting from ground zero."

Other American companies like Wilson Sporting Goods are hesitant to explore the Chinese golf market, instead speculating on India’s emerging golf market.

"We are in the very early stages, but India and Pakistan are markets that may move," said Jean-Pierre Degembe, chief of Wilson’s international golf business. "Everybody is running after China, but who’s playing golf in china? The people in Hong Kong. China may be right if you have a 10 year plan, but working on a three year plan, there isn’t much of a market. We’re in the very early stages, but India and Pakistan are markets that may move."

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