Golf and Asia: A Love Story

Over the past few months I have paid paticularly close attention to the numerous news headlines revolving around the sport of golf and its impact on the Asian market and the Asian people. While there are a handful of positive stories being written regarding a few of the top-tier players (like China Open-winner Y.E. Yang, Christina Kim, etc.), it appears that a majority of clippings are negative in nature or about how the way any organized golf faction is being handled incorrectly.

For example, a recent headline in the New York Times describes a South Korean boycott of the OneAsia circuit is drumming up a gauntlet of rumors and opinions regarding this collaboration of the Australian PGA and other Asian governing bodies:

OneAsia has met opposition from the more established Asian Tour as well as from
South Korean players unhappy that the international circuit is absorbing locals-only tournaments such as the Maekyung Open. The golfers have protested against what they call quotas against local players, and a group of about 135 pros announced two weeks ago that they would not compete in three upcoming OneAsia tournaments in South Korea: The SK Telecom Open, the Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open and the GS Caltex Maekyung Open.

Furthermore, I have also commented on other stories of note regarding countries such as China, Japan, and the Koreas and the manner in which golf is struggling. Unfortunately, it seems that a number of countries where population and sheer golf talent exist in droves the sport continues to struggle with a sense of professional identity in the form of an in-house Tour or competitive edge on home soil.

The reasons behind the golf-struggle experienced by governing bodies in these countries may be as simple as realizing the manner in which these governments operate; or, at least understanding the rules certain countries place on the actual sport of golf.

For example, a fairly recent "epidemic" currently experienced in China revolves around the illegal construction of golf courses despite (seemingly) strict government rules and regulations:

Hundreds of golf courses that have popped up across the country after 2004, when
the government imposed a moratorium to protect the country's shrinking land resources, are illegal, Dang Zuoji, director of the land planning department of the Ministry of Land and Resources said yesterday.

Granted, this particular example is easily excused by most when considering the immense population concentration in the country and the limited amount of natural resources available. Nevertheless, it appears that the desire to play golf has never been stronger in the country, presumably due to the recent surge in Asian-born golf professionals succeeding overseas. Furthermore, the game and industry of golf has never been more successful as China alone boasts a 2009 net of a whopping 60 billion yuan deriving from roughly 20 million golfers.

While golf began long ago as a privileged game enjoyed by the wealthy and upper-class, America has seen the resurgence of a game that reaches to all walks of socioeconomic status (i.e. the First Tee programs seen in many urban cities). Ironically, however, the same cannot be said for our friends in Asian countries, where the game remains somewhat of a "rich-man's game" due to continued limits on production.