China A Golf Market but a Narrow One

By Adam BarrNovember 7, 2003, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: Adam Barr is on assignment in China working on the next season of What's in the Bag?
BEIJING, China -- It's a beautiful view off the elevated first tee at Beijing International Golf Club. But you better be economically elevated if you want to get there.
And yes, you can hit a sand wedge off the Great Wall of China -- I did, twice -- and you will get some odd looks. But you will get some interest too.
In this fascinating country of 1.3 billion people, golf is reserved for the economic and governmental power elite, at least so far. This isn't a matter of discrimination, but rather pure economics. The centralized Communist government is charging ahead into market-based capitalism on some fronts, to be sure -- the coastal south, especially near Hong Kong, is rife with develoment and its attendant riches -- but the greater part of the country struggles with the juxtaposition of modern and ancient.
That means that at the bottom of the perilous, bumpy road down the mountains from the Great Wall, a golf course appears out of nowhere, a broad swath of green next to scrubby apple orchards and a reservoir. Bunker shine like diamonds among jade next to a broad avenue leading into Beijing's northern suburbs. Street vendors sell persimmons, picked and ready for drying and baking into traditional Chinese cakes, as Mercedes and Volkswagens glide past a course's front gates.
But in Shenzhen, just onto the mainland from Hong Kong, where development approaches religion and the enormous building cranes punctuate the view in every direction, China boasts one of the world's most extensive golf facilities. Mission Hills, which by the end of this month will have eight courses open and two more on the way, is a mecca for the economic power brokers of the south coast. The grill room is crowded, the three-level pro shop (really a golf department store) is well-stocked, and the courses are pristine. Women caddies in red sweatsuits (in any weather) and big kerchiefs attend group after group well into the afternoon. Billboards annouce upcoming clinics and openings by Sorenstam, Olazabal, Leadbetter -- and Tiger Woods' recent visit is memorialized by what can only be called a shrine.
It is in the industrial south that companies such as Winn Grips, Advance Multitech (clubheads) and Fujikura (shafts) run modern factories with high quality control standards, taking advantage of the plentiful and inexpensive labor. Dormitories right next to the factories house the young workers, and cafeterias feed them three meals a day from kitchens equipped with massive woks and crate upon crate of fresh food. Most of the workers send their money back to their families in the provinces of China. The government's labor department helps Chinese companies find and hire the workers.
What golf has here, both industrially and recreationally, can best be called a foothold. But it's a strong one. Many companies have realized the benefits of manufacturing here -- indeed, at more than 8 yuan to the dollar, the United States trade authorities insist the yuan is undervalued. And people playing golf here, whether visiting or local, seem to be having a great time. If China can avoid the diseases of what some critics call a bubble economy, golf may be able to add to its family from the biggest population pool in the world.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.