The game of golf globally is in good health as a result of increasing prosperity and economic participation in new and established markets, according to HSBC at the HSBC Golf Business Forum (GBF).

Aimed at driving debate amongst board and executive level sports industry representatives from across the golf industry spectrum, Giles Morgan, HSBC’s Global Head of Sponsorship and Events offered three key themes as driving factors behind golf’s good health in 2014.

However he cautioned the game’s continued good health cannot be taken for granted as it must evolve to meet the needs of the changing faces of tomorrow’s golfers.

Building on key themes from HSBC’s Golf’s 2020 Vision, a report first introduced two years ago to take the business temperature of the golf industry, Mr. Morgan cited updated research in describing some of the key trends shaping the game, namely an aspirant, growing middle class; economic development in parallel with demand for golf in new and emerging markets; and growing female participation.

The first theme explored increasing affluence and changes in aspirations which result in sports that were once perceived to be the preserve of the wealthy coming into the reach of the middle classes. These increasingly aspirant middle classes are spurring global demand for more and better access to golf courses, along with the lifestyle associated with the game. Cited examples include Brazil which has seen the number of golfers boom in the past 10 years with this number set to continue its upward trajectory as the sport benefits from an Olympic boost.

The second driver of golf’s good health is the strengthening and consolidation of emerging market’s economies where golf courses and their foot prints – or golf prints – are acting as key indicators when it comes to assessing the economic strength of emerging markets. For example, there are currently 25 golf courses in Vietnam, with plans for a further 65 over the coming years which provides a key insight into the confidence, aspiration and appetite that abound in that market for the game of golf.

The third strength of the global game of golf is the increase in female participation. Increased female affluence, access and attractiveness to the game of golf have resulted in an uptake of the game by female players and indeed female supporters the world especially in the USA.

Much of this success is down to specialist targeting and adaptation of the game. Attesting to this is the PGA ‘s recent USA wide initiative to bring more women into the game. The most recent figures from 2013 show that there was a net gain of almost 260,000 women golfers in the USA alone.

However, this success does not appear to have hit the UK golf industry. Last year it was revealed that Germany now has more female golfers than in the UK, despite having four times fewer golf courses.

Offering three themes for discussion in his opening remarks at the HSBC Golf Business Forum, Mr. Morgan said: “Globally golf is in a healthy position especially in emerging new markets as described by the prevailing themes outlined today.  But such a position cannot be taken for granted in the long-term. It’s important for the golf industry to come together to recognise the challenges ahead and grasp opportunities for growth while maintaining the integrity the sport is founded upon. Now is exactly the time to discuss and debate the future of the game. The industry needs to be innovative which is only possible by connecting the world of golf.

“Looking at the key themes it is apparent that the health of golf is inextricably linked to increasing prosperity and economic participation in new and established markets around the world. Golf has been rebounding over the past couple of years in line with the improved global economic outlook but we cannot get complacent about this continued success. Demand needs to be matched by supply through accessible and affordable courses, participants to play the game, talent to be inspired by the game and businesses to help deliver and match that demand.”

Recent research discussed in the opening remarks of the HSBC Golf Business Forum by HSBC was conducted by the Futures Company on behalf of HSBC as a follow-up to the HSBC’s Golf’s 2020 Vision.

The first event since IMG took ownership and also the first event with HSBC as the title sponsor and will see more than 260 delegates representing over 30 countries from both within and outside the golf industry to share industry best practice and enjoy invaluable networking opportunities with key industry stakeholders.

Specialists with expert knowledge and insight will debate how the game will evolve in the 21st Century at the Forum. A mix of panels, keynote presentations and thought leadership sessions will explore topics including the role of next generation digital technology within the golf industry, the influence of data analytics on performance and changing customer behavior. Delegates will also be presented with the very latest trends and research findings relating to global golf development, along with interactive debates including industry powerbrokers and innovators. The Forum’s attendees will also enjoy invaluable networking opportunities and golf on Abu Dhabi’s world class golf courses.

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