The global golf market has seen tough times over the past few years, but there are some signs that the market could be on the rebound. The National Golf Foundation/Royal & Ancient global golf course database has identified 650 courses in planning or under construction outside of the USA and there are some indications that a general stabilization is occurring.
“It seems to me that we have hit bottom and things are slowly starting to improve,” said Gary Player.
“I don’t expect to see meteoric growth in real estate development projects like we did in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but I am definitely encouraged. Asia will continue to be the major growth market for new development while the established markets like the USA and Western Europe will concentrate more on course re-designs and improvements to existing facilities to encourage membership growth and real estate sales. I am also positive about Russia and Brazil where we have seen indications of new project activity and when the political unrest settles, many developments in The Middle East/Northern Africa will get back on track.”
“The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio should also be a catalyst. Many nations will have to jumpstart their development programs in order to field a team and that can only help the growth of the game in non-traditional markets,” he added.
In what seems to be a steady stream of bad news about the state of the golf industry it may be somewhat difficult to pick out what the positives indicators are, but they are there. For example, India, one of the hottest markets in the world, has a huge potential for growth. According to KPMG’s September 2011 Country Shapshot: India, if in the next 10 years, the proportion of active golfers doubles to 300,000, then India would have to build between 90-100 new courses to accommodate the increased demand. That bodes well for golf course design firms, real estate developers and manufacturers.
There are also positives coming from Western Europe. A survey conducted by A4G, supported by the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) and de Haan & Associates, of 105 golf clubs in the United Kingdom reveals that over the past 12 months 46% of clubs have increased membership, 57% generated bar and catering sales increases, 48% saw green fee sales increase, and 71% experienced no cash flow difficulties. In addition, year-end figures from Golfbreaks.com, Europe’s largest golf travel company, show a 13 percent growth in customer numbers over the past 12 months with a marked rise in interest for emerging locations such as Cyprus and Morocco (bookings to Cyprus are up 47 percent from last year).
The key for the golf market, as for all other global markets, is economic improvement. The continuing worry about disposable household income has depressed rounds played in most regions, but recent economic signs in the US and the apparent stabilization of the European debt crisis could help even out, or reverse this trend over the next few years. Let’s all hope for a prosperous 2012.