The Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Cheng recently interviewed me for his story “Beijing Pulls Out Its Driver,” which appeared in the November 27, 2009 print edition. The piece — which spends a lot of time discussing Mission Hills Golf Club, in Shenzhen — focuses on the prospects for golf’s growth in China now that it is an Olympic sport. Here’s a snippet:
Dan Washburn, a Shanghai-based writer who is researching a book on golf in China, says that if there are medals to be had in golf, China will try its hardest to produce medalists. “They’ll train them from a young age, and they’ll be state-funded, like other Olympic sports,” he says. Given China’s track record at the Beijing Games, where it won 51 gold medals, the most of any nation, it might be a bad idea to bet against it on the golf course.
… [G]olf’s mainstream popularity in China is still many years away. Land is expensive here, and official concerns about the growing wealth gap in a country that still has 600 million farmers have forced the government to impose a nominal moratorium on new golf courses.
“Golf will continue to grow in participation in China as the economy grows, but I don’t think it’ll become a mainstream game because of the resources necessary,” says Mr. Washburn, the writer. “It’s going to be an elitist and prohibitively expensive sport in China for the foreseeable future.”