Abu Dhabi: The rise of Asia as a region with major golf potential and the global growth of golf set the agenda at the HSBC Golf Business Forum.
More than 260 golf business leaders from 30 countries attended the event at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, connecting leading companies, organisations and individuals.
Focusing on the rise of golf in Asia, the conference heard that China is the fastest growing market for golf development in the world.
During a panel session moderated by Asian Golf Industry Federation Chief Communications Officer Spencer Robinson, it was revealed that 600 courses are already open in the world’s most populous country while it is estimated up to 1,500 courses are required to satisfy current demand.
The panel was made up of Dominic Wall, Director, R&A – Asia, Mike Kerr, Chief Executive Asian Tour, Nathan Andrews, President, Lavasa Corporation, and Midori Miyazaki, Director of International Affairs, ISPS.
IMG’s Guy Kinnings predicted the next global superstar would come from either China or Korea, while R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson responded to a call for a Major championship in Asia.
“Clearly, it is illogical that as golf in Asia grows there would be three Majors in America and one in the UK. It is not possible for a golfing body to determine an event in Asia should become a Major, but I have no doubt it will happen in due time.”
Speaking about the international opportunities for the golf business, Giles Morgan, HSBC Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, called for a customer-centric approach to drive increased participation in established and emerging markets.
“Golf needs to take a broader approach, it is not just about the game,” he said. “Golf must be flexible, it must reflect the zeitgeist for inclusion, it must ensure it is sustainable, and it must uphold the traditions of the game but instigate innovation.”
The opportunity for golf to capitalise on its inclusion in the Olympics at Rio 2016 was discussed in a leaders’ question time featuring Antony Scanlon of the International Golf Federation, sports executive Donna Orender, Dawson and Kinnings.
Scanlon said: “Golf at the Olympics has a potential TV audience of 3.4 billion. I don’t think everything will change immediately, but we have an opportunity around the halo effect – three weeks after the Olympics 75% of viewers will have seen a sport they hadn’t seen before.
“I think it is a great opportunity to showcase men and women being equal in golf.”
Dawson, who recently announced he would retire from the R&A in 2015, was presented with the HSBC Golf Business Forum Lifetime Achievement Award by Italian Matteo Mannasero, an ambassador for Golf in Abu Dhabi.