Government Seeking to Popularise Golf in South Korea

Seoul, Korea: The South Korean Government is seeking to popularise golf by opening more public courses and lowering green fees after President Park Geun-hye highlighted the need to get more people to play the sport.
According to a Yonhap report published in the Korea Herald, insiders said related ministries are in the process of coming up with ways to make golf more accessible to ordinary people.
Possible measures include turning country clubs under court receivership or those that have gone bankrupt into public courses, officials said. Of the 500 courses in the country, some 80 are reported to be in a state of impaired capital and 20 are under control of the courts.
“There are many country clubs that are struggling to make ends meet or are even closing their doors completely, resulting in a waste of assets since these facilities cannot be used for anything else,” an official, who declined to be identified, was quoted as saying.
Also in discussion are ways to allow golfers to pick whether or not they want to use caddies or carts, reducing the cost of teeing off.
At present, using a cart adds some 60,000-80,000 won (about US$55-73) to the fee, while tipping caddies costs up to 120,000 won for a four-member team. These charges on average add some 50,000 won per golfer on top of the green fee.
“Many country clubs actually welcome such measures,” the official said.
One reason why golf is viewed as a sport for the rich is because of the high green fees, which result from a majority of golf courses in South Korea being country clubs. This is the opposite of the United States where 75 per cent of courses are public. Most country clubs have carts and caddies that people use.
The Yonhap report said Park told Cabinet Ministers last week that she does not oppose government officials playing golf and that there is a need to popularise the sport. Park is the honorary chairwoman of this year’s President’s Cup slated to take place this fall in Incheon.
Other measures call for restricting the use of special funds collected from the country’s golf courses that currently stand at around 39-40 billion won per year. This is so they can be used exclusively to promote the sport of golf, instead of being spent elsewhere.
The Government, however, said it does not plan on lowering excise tax for rounds, a key demand from golfers and country clubs.

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