Golf Can Survive Financial Crisis, Says PGA

The corporate atmosphere of a golf tournament is almost as deep-rooted as the golf itself.

Part of the culture is to have rows of corporate tents providing the elite and their guests shade from the sun, luxury facilities to watch the action on television and enjoy gourmet food served by an army of waiters and waitresses.

Once I was covering a European Tour event in an Asian country. It was raining and organisers were grappling with whether or not to shorten the event to three days.

I happened to be within earshot of a walkie talkie, used by organisers to convey major decisions. Despite the weather, the main talking point at that time was one tent’s complaint that the beer was warm.

A flurry of angry exchanges was finally ended when one bright soul said: “Just go to the captain and ask him for a big bag of ice … biiiig bag of ice.”

There was no golf that day, but the folks in the tented village nevertheless had a good time.

However, will this culture change given the economic squeeze currently afflicting the United States, with implications that could shake the global economy?

At the recent Ryder Cup at Valhalla, there were about 250 corporate tents, among them those representing companies bang in the middle of the financial woes that have played havoc with stock markets and sentiment.

Some of these companies pay up to US$1 million just to make their presence felt at such big tournaments.

According to the PGA of America, golf is safe because of the sport’s large corporate and a fan base that has at least 28 million in the US alone. PGA CEO Joe Steranka said in a Reuters article:

“You are always going to be affected when you have the systemic business issues our nation is facing right now. We’re very concerned about it. Our $76-billion-a-year golf industry is made up of $28 billion of direct spending on the nation’s 16,000 golf courses and 3,000 golf ranges and that core is still very solid. We do have $18 billion in tourism and $12-13 billion in real estate development that is directly related to golf and it is on those enabled industries that we see the greatest impact going forward.”

He said people would still take the same number of holidays and only the amount they spend will drop. And golf can survive that drop … as long as the beer is cold.

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