I recently received an illuminating email from renowned golf course critic Darius Oliver — author of Planet Golf and Planet Golf USA — that I thought readers of this blog would find quite interesting. I am publishing a portion of that email here, with permission from Darius:
I recently exhibited at the Beijing Golf Show, and was alarmed at the frantic pace of activity in China and the number of big budget projects being awarded to moderately successful, 2nd or 3rd tier, golf architects. The sad reality for China, is that despite all the noise and activity, most of the golf is very disappointing, and unlikely to support or sustain the type of participation growth industry ‘insiders’ are fond of quoting. Why would the Chinese want to take up this game in large numbers when courses are either too long and too difficult, too expensive, or dull and uninteresting? Even if China eventually gets to 5 or 10 million golfers, I’ll bet the percentage that are really passionate ‘career golf people’, is much lower than in more established markets. The reason simply being that the game there is less enjoyable, because the courses are not as fun or interesting.
Much of the blame here must fall on a local golf media that is both uneducated and reluctant to shoot down aspiring developers by writing negative copy. In more sophisticated markets the media is able to be constructive and hold poor design or poor construction to account. Not to mention the actual business of golf course construction and development. There seems to be little or no accountability in China, and as a result local developers and course operators continue to believe that Mission Hills is the greatest (rather than just the biggest) and that golf courses need to be presented in lush perfection in order to receive positive press.
To summarize: Don’t expect to see Planet Golf China on bookshelves anytime soon.
UPDATE: Darius expands on his comments in a lively forum thread over at Golf Club Atlas. Definitely worth a look. And in response to my Planet Golf China quip above, Darius says: “I am actually planning a new Planet Golf book (hopefully to be translated), with more local Chinese content.”