CNN’s Living Golf tackles golf in China

CNN's Living Golf covers golf in China

CNN’s Living Golf program posted a series of stories about golf in China earlier this month. For the most part, they did a fine job and offer the viewer a decent overview of what’s going on here — or as much of an overview as you could expect in around 15 minutes. Sure there is some misleading hyperbole — “There are now around 600 [golf courses in China], fewer than one for every 2 million people. That’s like having just 32 golf courses in the whole of Great Britain and Ireland.” — but you should expect some of that when the media reports on China’s “golf boom.”

Living Golf visited China in late October into early November. They started in Hainan, at the Mission Hills Star Trophy celebrity pro-am, and finished in Shanghai at the WGC-HSBC Champions. I was supposed to be part of the package, but book research had me in Beijing when CNN’s crew was in Shanghai. Somehow, they managed just fine without me.

I have embedded all three Living Golf clips below.

First, we have “China’s golfing ambition,” about planned growth in Hainan (which I have written about at length). CNN gets credit for going outside the gates of Mission Hills Haikou to see what nearby villagers thought of the golf development in their neighborhood, but someone forgot to add graphics to the online version of this story (I assume graphics appeared when it ran on TV). Thus, we are left wondering: Who is the local official they interviewed? Who is the professor? What’s the name of the once private course that decided to become public?

I bet some of CNN’s omissions — What golf course flooded a village? What is the name of the village? — are intentional. There are some golf developers they probably don’t want to piss off, if they have an interest in reporting on golf in China in the future.

Next we have “Future stars of Chinese golf” which focuses on, among others, friend-of-the-website Michael Dickie and his super-talented 12-year-old golf student Lucy Shi Yu Ting. It also features some almost-too-good-to-be-free PR for HSBC.

Finally, “China’s top golfer” takes a look at, as you might have guessed, China’s top golfer Liang Wenchong, whose humble origins are also the focus of “From peasant farmer’s son to China’s golfing No. 1,” a written piece by Living Golf host Don Riddell.

One thing I found most interesting is that Liang apparently said he thinks the current golfing population in China is around 300,000. I am not clear if that is just a bad translation — sometimes that happens with numbers over here — but if Liang indeed does believe 300,000 to be accurate, he’s definitely going off the China Golf Association script, which purports the number to be somewhere between 3 and 5 million. Most people I talk to think 1 million feels like a reasonable number.

A couple other things that caught my eye: We learn that Liang might be a Mac user, and we get to see what a modest village mansion looks like in rural Guangdong.