Asia’s Golf Boom

Projected golf developments in several Asian countries are presented. One sign of the impending Asian golf boom was the number of participants and visitors at the Golf Asia conference held in Singapore. The predicted golf boom may last from 5 to 10 years and will be limited by environmental issues.

Golf Courses are Springing up as Destinations

Singapore has 21 golf courses and driving ranges. Malaysia has 91 existing golf courses. The Malaysian government intends to build 160 courses. In Thailand, more than 58 golf courses are planned over the next three to four years, which will double the number of facilities. Indonesia has 67 new golf course developments. In Japan, 95.2 million golfers visit some 1,818 golf courses. The number of golfers and the anticipated growth is as follows:

Golf is spreading in China as fast as the population is growing. There are plans to build 22 courses, more than triple the existing number. Investments made by foreigners in the golf industry exceed $500 million.

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According to the China Golf Association, China now has nine-and-a-half golf courses (a nine-hole course in Peking accounts for the half). Only one of these is Chinese-owned. America, by comparison, has 15,000 golf courses. Of the courses planned, most are in the south, either in Fujian province (to cater to Taiwanese investors) or in Guangdong province.

Hong Kong has no public golf courses, but four private ones. Compared to Southeast Asian designations, greens fees in Hong Kong are expensive, ranging from $33 to $100. Depending on the quality of the golf facilities, Singapore’s greens fees for visitors range from $30 for the weekday to $80 for the weekends. Compared to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, golfing in Singapore is about 30 percent cheaper. Golf in Malaysia has had favorable publicity due in part to the reasonable greens fees.

Of the 13 new golf projects, eight are in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, two in Negri Sembilan and one in Langkawi. Inbound golf business has spawned golf tour organizers throughout Southeast Asia. About 300 golfers arrive in Thailand through tour groups.

The turnout of exhibitors and golfers alike at the Golf Asia conference held in Singapore testifies to this rapidly expanding golf market. The conference attracted 15,925 trade and professional visitors, including golf companies, golf course architects and designers and golf clubs, plus 15,000 members of the golfing public. Golf Course News is launching an adjunct publication called Golf Asia. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America will hold its first meeting in Singapore concurrent with the Golf Asia conference.

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Incorporating a golf course in a master-planned community not only enhances the property image and values, but I also accelerate the absorption pace of real estate. Pension funds and private investors should explore investing in listed shares of Asian companies involved in the development and management of golf courses and master-planned projects. Investment pools have been formed to joint venture and acquire golf developments, especially in high-growth markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

The golf boom in Asia has spurred new business opportunities for American companies, including golf course designers, instructors, golf course equipment and cart suppliers, superintendents, hotel/resort operators and club managers. Growth will not continue unabated. This window of opportunity may be open for at least another 5 to 10 years. Issues such as environment, encroachment on national forest reserves and displacement of farmers will eventually impede that pace of growth in the region.

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