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23 Aug 2013

Asia is game changer for golf

Giles Morgan

by Giles Morgan

Global Head of Sponsorship, HSBC

Asia is game changer for golf

HSBC is keen to develop talent in emerging markets, as shown by our sponsorship of the Brasil Classic

The rise of China’s Tianlang Guan, who at 14 is the youngest player ever to appear in the Masters, shows how golf is changing. The sport has been traditionally dominated by the Western world, but is increasingly global. At this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, 14 countries – from Wales to Thailand – featured on the leaderboard.

As a major international sponsor of golf for 10 years, HSBC is committed to growing the sport at every level, with four flagship events, a new tournament in Brazil, and a series of youth programmes. The WGC-HSBC Champions, to be held in Shanghai this year, is offering USD8.5 million in prize money. We also sponsor the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.

In keeping with our heritage in the Far East, HSBC sponsors the HSBC China Junior Golf Programme, the China National Junior team, and other youth initiatives, helping 23,000 young players. Many of China’s top young players including Tianlang Guan, Andy Zhang, Ye Wo-Cheng, and the high-achieving women players Shanshan Feng and Jing Yan, are graduates of the programme.

Lee Westwood, the former world number one, recently said: “We’re looking at the balance of power turning more and more towards Asia. They are producing better players and putting on better tournaments. I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four of the world’s top 10 from Asia by 2020.”

As a major international sponsor of golf for 10 years, HSBC is committed to growing the sport at every level

HSBC is keen to develop talent in emerging markets, as shown by our recent sponsorship of the Brasil Classic. But we still play a key role in backing the foundations of the game. In the UK, we are a patron of the oldest tournament in the world, the Open Championship, and HSBC Golf Roots programme helps more than 9,000 schools and allows one million children to get involved with the game each year. Broadening its appeal to young people and women is important for the future of the game. Our goal is to create a sustainable long-term structure through our sponsorship of youth development and grassroots programmes. We also support innovation and the use of technology to help the sport evolve.

Though there are no official figures, at least 50 million people are estimated to play golf. In recent times the best growth markets have been in Asia, where the rising middle classes have a growing appetite for the game. To meet this demand, countries from China to Vietnam are developing courses and resorts. Golf has become a major business.

Wealthier players spend large sums on equipment in addition to the cost of playing. Last year the National Golf Foundation valued the US market at about USD25 billion, of which USD20 billion is spent on green fees, USD4 billion on equipment, and USD1 billion on clothing. Asian companies are moving in on this market. In China, the sport’s popularity has been helped by prodigies such as Tianlang Guan and Ye Wo-Cheng, 12, who played in the Volvo China Open in May.

The game is also attracting tourists who combine playing different courses with their holidays. In China, the first course was not built until 1984. Since 2004, the number of courses has trebled to 600, although there are legal restrictions on building new ones. Mission Hills Haikou, which opened in 2011, is already the world’s largest golf complex and is still being developed.

Holiday sales through members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators grew 9.3 per cent in 2012 to more than USD2 billion. Morocco, Kenya, Turkey, Tunisia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Caribbean are among those offering golfing vacations.

For the first quarter of 2013 the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority reported an 89 per cent year-on-year rise in tourist rounds played. Some suggest that Latin America, where golf is still in its infancy, may be the next hotspot for the game. This could be helped by the introduction of golf at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Rapid growth in Asia and expanding links in areas such as Latin America means golf is teed up for an exciting global future.

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