At least one bear is bullish on golf’s growth in the new decade.
Speaking to reporters on Jan. 8, in a revival of his old “State of the Bear” press conferences, Jack Nicklaus said: “You’re going to see a tremendous growth in the game of golf over the next seven to eight years particularly.”
Nicklaus expects much of that growth to occur internationally in “underdeveloped golf markets,” such as China, India and Russia. In the latter he will begin designing three courses this spring.
The catalyst for growth? Nicklaus said it will be golf’s return to the Olympics, beginning with Rio de Janeiro in 2016. And Nicklaus wants to be involved. He confirmed his interest in designing the tournament site in Rio, saying he has been involved in discussions with the PGA Tour.
“I don’t know whether we will be involved or not, but we certainly have made trips down there and made our designer’s fee part of that known,” Nicklaus said.
Meanwhile, much of his focus is in Asia, which accounts for 90 percent of his current business. (Of that figure, 75 percent is attributable to projects in China.) As a result, Nicklaus is beefing up his staffing abroad, transferring as many as six U.S.-based employees to China. The company already has a Hong Kong office and is expanding existing offices in Beijing and Seoul. (Its Manila office will stay the same size.)
Nicklaus spoke with great zeal about his efforts to develop learning centers in China’s provinces. He said he is in talks with the China Golf Association and other parties interested in growing the game. The addition of Olympic golf, he said, means golf will receive government funding. Nicklaus envisions junior golfers from all walks of life granted access to these learning facilities.
“It won’t be an elitist game,” Nicklaus said. “It will be a game for everybody. I think that’s so important. You’re going to see that in lots of countries around the world.”