Analysis Golf

Trends which are already starting to shape golf’s future are the same trends that are currently shaping the global community. Mario Hajiloizis investigates.

Current global trends are having a huge impact on the golf community; the increased attraction towards Asia, urbanisation, digital technology advancement and environmental pressures. Despite these trends having a profound effect on one of the world’s oldest sports, it is adapting to these new challenges extremely well.

The professional game is already dominated by younger, fitter players – four of the top ten PGA ranked players in the world are 27-years-old or younger – and there’s been a boom in the number of children playing the sport in Asia – the MENA region included – meaning that the next generation will increasingly be from the continent.

IBTM China 2019

In Dubai alone there was just one course in 1988; that has now risen to more than 10 high-end courses, with two courses from Donald Trump’s business empire soon to be added into the mix. “The next few years will further establish Dubai at the forefront of golf tourism as the Trump International Golf Club, and Trump World Golf Club raise the bar for quality golf play in the emirate,” senior vice president, DAMAC Properties, Niall McLoughlin remarked to TTG.

China has also witnessed the number of championship golf courses triple in less than a decade. With this newfound enthusiasm for the sport trickling into MENA, courses across the region have reported a strong proliferation in Chinese golf tourists to their resorts.

“Global professional tours are showcasing top resorts with the World Golf Championships and professional events paying top dollar to bring top golfers into markets which are emerging such as Dubai and China for example, outlined managing director, Preferred Golf, Michael Osgood to TTG.

“The influx of outbound Chinese travellers is driving a huge demand, as these golfers were once restricted to playing only in China and now have global destinations at their disposal.”

NOT JUST A MAN’S WORLD

Women participating in golf is also on the rise, with this expected to lead to changes in expectations about the facilities that clubs and courses need to provide to their members – and creating a platform for golf as a family game. Competitions such as the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, due to be held from December 6 to 12, 2015, and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship previously holding women-only activities, are only going to further develop the women’s game across the region.

With golf being one of a few unique sports which people of any age, gender and ability can play alongside each other, this is also propelling golf’s rise in popularity around the world, and especially among families. “You often see parents playing with their children or even grandparents. It brings people together in a social and competitive way,” added chief commercial officer, PGA Australia, Stephen Ayles to TTG.

“Just like the [Fiji-based] Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, many courses around the world are built on some of the most stunning pieces of land. People can enjoy a round of golf whilst also absorbing the location and beauty of the destination.

” With today’s increasingly busy lifestyles, golf seems to provide the perfect opportunity to spend some time with friends and family in quality resorts and beautiful destinations, whilst simultaneously keeping fit.

GLOBAL APPEAL

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa – the setting for the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course – is one such resort which is increasingly welcoming golf tourists from around the world, including junior golfers with their families.

“There are more younger golfers visiting us, and we plan on capitalising on this with our golf getaway packages,” outlined golf operations manager, Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course, Amitesh Chandra to TTG.

Previously, in order to play golf, participants used to have to be a golf club member to access the course and learn to play. Now, however, there are public courses more widely available and a less elitist attitude to the sport, with even schools now offering golf as a sport for children.

“We have noticed that golfers are becoming younger and are welcoming a more mixed group of men and women, rather than the typical group of older men on a golf buddies week away,” marketing manager, Kempinski Hotel Bahía, Justine Haughey informed TTG.

“We capitalise on this trend by offering these younger and more health conscious guests the opportunity to also use our Spa and Fitness Centre and ensure they have a good breakfast before they head out to the course each morning.”

Similarly Bahrain’s The Royal Golf Club is also welcoming a more diverse golf clientele from businessmen, to ladies, families and juniors.

“Our ever expanding junior programmes are also helping to integrate young players onto our championship course,” said general manager, The Royal Golf Club, Stephen Havrilla to TTG.

“We are also seeing families taking up the sport as a way to enjoy doing an activity that they all can participate in.”

As this globally-loved sport continues to grow in appeal, courses are being developed as part of national tourism strategies, thus highlighting their increasing importance.