Less than 0.3 percent of the Chinese population are regular golfers. But in a country that boasts 1.3 billion citizens, that 0.3 percent—up to 5 million people—is nothing to sneeze at. Although golf is a relatively new sport in China, with the first golf club established in 1984, the market for golf equipment in the People’s Republic has grown prodigiously, to become what is now a $462 million industry showing an annual growth of 15 percent.
“When the Silport golf course opened, most of our customers were Japanese, South Korean, people from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Maybe one or two people from the Chinese mainland played on our course every month,” said Shanghai Silport Golf Club Head Caddy Wang Haihong.
Recently, however, Wang has seen an increase in mainland players. “They come from different areas of China,” Wang said, “such as Shanghai, Suzhou in Jiangsu province, and even from Northeast China.”
Each weekday, Silport sees about 900 customers putt through for a round of golf; on the weekends, that number surges to about 1,200 per day. And those numbers are excellent news for golf equipment retailers.
Although China does have some home-grown golf retailers, the largest of which is 100 Golf, the market is dominated by US and Japanese brands. These brands include US-made Callaway, Titleist, TaylorMade, and Nike, and Japanese products Mizuno and Honma.
US brands have an edge in the market, though, which Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Wu Ming attributes to US advertising and the popularity of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour among Chinese golfers. Wu is the director of the university’s school of golf management.
“In order to copy their golf heroes, Chinese golfers use US brands,” Wu said.
Liu Yongmao, founder of China’s 100 Golf, the United States’ successful golf culture also has something to do with the US brands’ success in China.
“The US is the real golf mecca. The US tour is the most successful in the world both in terms of attendance and economic returns. In addition, the US has the world’s best golf courses and top-ranking golfers,” Liu said.
This US bias has given Japanese brands some tough competition in the mainland market. Mizuno, the first foreign golf brand in China and formerly the second-best selling golf equipment in China, is now ranked fourth or fifth behind US competitors.
photo credit: callaway