Does China have enough golf? Judging from the scene at last month’s China Golf Show, the game here is still in a growth phase. More than 30 companies involved in design and construction exhibited at the show, including Cashmore, Dye Design, Nicklaus Design, Greg Norman Design, Ernie Els Design, Robert Trent Jones II, IMG, Schmidt Curley and Rees Jones. The show, in its 10th year, attracted a high number of architects for one simple reason—this is where the projects are.
The official count of golf courses in China is 596, Wang Li-Wei, Deputy Director General of the China Golf Association, announced at the mid-March event at the China National Convention Center. The CGA projects that the country will have 1,000, along with 20 million golfers to play on them, by 2020.
It’s hard to get a reliable count of the number of courses in the country without a strong community of local course developers or managers, and where new course construction occupies a strange extra-legal gray area. But my rough estimates based on talking to people in the industry indicate that the number of courses has grown 150 percent from the 300 to 400 estimate of three years ago. George Geng, national sales manager for Rainbird, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of irrigation systems for golf courses, says his company has 100 projects in the country this year.
From modern China’s first course more than 20 years ago in Guangdong province, the Chinese golf world now extends as far west as Xinjiang province and as far north as Heilongjiang. The hotspots, unsurprisingly, are still in the south—the Pearl River Delta, with its warm weather and proximity to Hong Kong; tropical Hainan Island; and Yunnan province, whose moderate climate and impressive landscape makes it an ideal home for golf resorts.
The rapid development of courses, unrivaled anywhere else in the world, should make a golf expo in China a hot property. That’s the bet being made by Reed Exhibitions, the UK-based event management firm which purchased the China Golf Show three months ago through its Reed Exhibitions Greater China, and organized it via joint venture Reed Guanghe. Reed secured the partnership of the Professional Golf Association of America, which is extending its PGA Merchandise Show into Asia via the China Golf Show and the Asia Golf Show (scheduled for October 20-22 in Guangzhou).
“This is the best golf show we’ve ever had in China,” said David Liu, chief China representative for Arnold Palmer Design Company. “Traffic is good, and the show is managed better.” It was Liu’s first time attending the China Golf Show for Arnold Palmer, but he says he has been active in the Chinese golf market for more than 10 years, originally as a sales representative for Club Car. His positive impression was echoed by everyone I spoke with, including RainBird’s Geng. “This year is much better than last year,” he said. “There are more people, and more of the architects from the US.”
At least one exhibiting architect, Dye Designs, inked a new design contract at the show. The new project is a two-course job in Yunnan, where Dye already has projects in various phases of development. O’Brien McGarey, president of Dye Designs, says that shows like this offer designers and their clients a chance to shop around for some of the services and goods they need to subcontract or purchase.
“He walked the floor with our head designer, Cynthia Dye,” McGarey said of the company’s newest client. “He checked out the John Deere booth, ordered some materials, met a Korean architect he might use to design homes next to the course.”
Tags: golf, trade shows