GOLF RETAILING caught up with four pros from around the world to find out about the challenges and opportunities that the game of golf has in their countries.
Adam Kritikos, Greece
How is golf doing in Greece? Is it a growing market?
Golf in Greece is still an emerging sport, as it hasn’t been developed at the rate that other countries have over the past few decades. However, the recent developments by Costa Navarino in Southern mainland Greece, with the construction of two signatures courses and further developments in line, are starting to put Greece on the golfing map.
What are some of the specific challenges that golf faces in Greece?
Greece is actually one of the best climates for playing golf all year round, with temperatures being mild in the winter months and sunny all year round. The biggest challenge in golf developments is getting the proper permissions and licences to build a golf course, which can be the biggest challenge golf constructor’s face.
What are the most popular hardware and apparel brands with consumers?
At Costa Navarino, we work closely with Taylor Made/Adidas and Polo Ralph Lauren through our relationship with Troon Golf. However, Titleist and Footjoy are favourites within the golf consumers in Greece.
Is a lot of emphasis placed on the retail side of a pro’s business?
Not really. Most of our time is spent on spreading the game of golf through lessons, junior academies, operations and tournament organisation.
Where do you hope golf will be in Greece in ten years’ time?
The first step is to increase the popularity of the game of golf in Greece, which is already heading in the right direction through the four main junior academies in Greece (Costa Navarino, Glyfada GC, Crete GC and Porto Carras GC). The state of junior golf has been the best it has ever been, and I can predict that many rising stars will take the game of golf in Greece to new heights.
The Asian market
PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Professional at Singha Elite Golf Performance Centre, Andrew Knott tells PGA of Great Britain & Ireland’s International Development Manager – PGA Project China, Matthew Davies, about his experiences of working in Thailand.
What key differences do you see between the golf markets in the UK and Asia?
One of them is the business relationship between the golf club and the professional and my circumstances are a case in point. I am not employed by the golf club and I have to pay a monthly rental fee to use the facilities and advertise.
Golf in Thailand is run much more on a commercial basis. As a result I have set up my own businesses, www.singhaelitegolf.com, www.perfectswingasia.com and www.protourgolfcollege-thailand.com.
What was your reason for moving to Asia?
My move to Asia was fuelled by other passions in life: travel and an interest in different cultures and religions. I actually came to Thailand and Asia working as a tour leader for a travel company and got paid to travel all around South East Asia!
What would you say are the main obstacles you face working in Asia?
The two biggest obstacles we face as PGA professionals in Asia could be seen to be intertwined. Firstly, the main issue is a lack of understanding throughout all levels of the golfing community, certainly here in Thailand anyway, in what it means to be a PGA member and the training involved.
Secondly, at higher levels of golf establishments our value is not seen. Therefore there are times when you may feel under-utilised. In my opinion the main thing the PGA can do, and is doing, is work towards raising awareness of what it means to have the words PGA Professional Member after your name. Having said that, members have to be prepared to help themselves and drive it too. Getting this message across to my clients, and potential clients, is something I have tried to emphasise heavily on my website.
What three pieces of advice would you give to PGA professionals who are thinking about working In Asia?
1 – Don’t believe everything you read or hear from people who have only scratched the surface – nothing is ever quite what it seems at face value in Asia, so you must dig deeper and experience it first-hand for yourself.
2 – Don’t think or have the attitude that you are going to arrive and make a big splash or have an instant success. Be humble and patient and you will endear yourself to the locals. They don’t work with the same attitudes as you.
3 – Be prepared to work hard for everything you will get, nothing will be handed on a plate to you.
Do these three things and you can expect some great golfing facilities, some wonderful culture, and a fantastic experience to cherish.
This interview is used courtesy of the PGAs of Europe.
Heini Haapala, Finland
How is golf doing in Finland? Is it a growing market?
Growth stopped in Finland couple of years ago but luckily it didn’t affect the market too much. In the past few years golf has been in a steady phase but year 2016 seems to be better again thanks to the Olympics, which gave a great boost to the amount of beginners starting the game.
What do you do to try and combat the bad winter weather?
The Finnish golf market is using winter months for its advantage with numerous winter practice facilities. More and more players are taking classes throughout the winter to improve their game for the short summer season. The traveling market is also bigger and bigger each year, when players escape the cold winter months to southern Europe or further. Even though the Finnish golf season is short in itself, people have found ways to play or train all year round and it’s certainly helping golf business in Finland.
What are the most popular hardware and apparel brands with consumers in Finland?
The most popular brands would be Ping, Titleist, Wilson Staff, Taylor Made, Mizuno, Callaway, Cobra and Cleveland. Apparel brands would be Cross Sportswear, J. Lindeberg, Peak Performance, Green Lamb, Cutter&Buck, Calvin Klein Golf, Nike and Adidas.
Where do you hope golf will be in Finland in ten years’ time?
I hope we’ll have more public courses or other ways to make golf possible for more people, golf still being a sport for the wealthier part of the population here. I also hope communities would be involved in developing opportunities in golf as they are doing in other sports.
Annemieke de Goederen, Holland
How is golf doing in Holland? Is participation stable?
Golf is doing good, people are still getting into golf, but people are leaving the game too – I think it’s the same amount. Why is a question the Dutch golf federation is trying to figure out. The reasons for it could be: it takes too much time and it’s hard to make real improvements.
What are some of the specific challenges that golf faces in Holland?
Improving the quality of play, getting more kids to start golf and keep them, getting golfers to become members at golf clubs (in whatever form or membership) – this is very important, if golfers become members they will play more. Golf is changing: less traditional, less strokeply, less 18 holes. People want different things than they did 30 years ago. Most golf courses need to find out what the golfer of today actually wants.
What are the most popular hardware and apparel brands with consumers in Holland?
I see the regular brands in people’s bags: Ping, Callaway, Titleist, and so on. For golf clothing it is Nike, Peak performance, AdidasAbacus, Daily, Under Armour and shoes are Footjoy, Nike, Adidas and Ecco.
Is a lot of emphasis placed on the retail side of a pro’s business?
I don’t have a shop or sell clubs, not a lot of professionals do. Most of us are coaches.