Development of Golf – A Southern African Challenge

The sport of golf has captivated spectators on golf courses as well as on television all over the world. The golf bug has also hit China very hard and the country is developing elite golf courses at a very fast pace more than any country in the world.  The sport of golf has always been associated with the rich and famous. Golf equipment is indeed very expensive to acquire and so is membership of golf clubs where the sport is played. However, in North America and Western Europe, golf academies and societies have sprung up offering opportunities, sometimes to the less privileged youngsters to try the sport.

Agreat opportunity has arisen in Southern Africa for the development of golf with the restructuring of the European Professional Golf Tour to include the Nedbank Golf Challenge as part of the three -tournament end of season competition set-up. This is a big boost for the game. It offers young professionals in the region an opportunity to qualify for the mega-event in order to rub shoulders with some of the biggest stars in the professional game. The game of golf is no longer just “the gentleman’s game”, it is now a multi-billion dollar industry which ranges from equipment manufacturing, facilities development, golf tours, and television rights. Furthermore, the development of golf estates has become part and parcel of the game, where high class and luxurious hotels and lodges as well as residential properties are developed adjacent to golf courses.

There is no doubt that golf tourism contributes a significant portion to sport tourism in general all over the world. It is now up to the sports administrators, economists and accountants to undertake thorough research to establish relevant trends as well as facts and figures, especially for the Southern African region. With its relative political stability and economic development, Southern Africa offers great opportunities for the development of golf at amateur and professional levels on the African continent.

To this end, there is need for national sports authorities to play their role in terms of acquisition of land from state authorities to avail it for the development of golf courses and related infrastructure.

Whilst the region, has embraced wildlife and eco-tourism, as well general business tourism, there is very little understanding of sports tourism and its tremendous potential to create jobs and alleviate abject poverty in Southern Africa. Golf tourism can be an important component of this drive to bring more visitors to Southern African shores.

Although it takes place primarily in South Africa, the Nedbank Golf Challenge must therefore be embraced as a regional initiative and a unique platform for networking, business and economic development.

There is no sport which brings so many rich people together like golf. It is up to Southern African sports administrators to take advantage of this phenomenon to promote growth and development not only in golf, but in other aspects of socio-economic and political development.

Conventional industries and formal economic sectors are not creating jobs fast enough to absorb the millions of college and university graduates produced in Southern Africa every year.

The sport sector must now come to the party to help governments create jobs for millions of educated but unemployed graduates. Youth unemployment is a ticking time-bomb for the whole of Southern Africa, not just one country. Ways and means of tackling this enormous challenge should be shared across the region.

Regional integration under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should not be strait-jacket, where only issues of agriculture, education, energy and health and transport are discussed. No one can deny that the afore-mentioned sectors are important for human development and deserve greater strategic focus.

However, sport development must not be left behind. The development of sport and physical recreation can complement and help to energize all other sectors.

It is for this reason, that relevant authorities should appreciate the high income value of sport and golf tourism, in particular. The development of golf resorts helps with the development of the game at amateur and professional levels.

The construction industry also benefits from such projects which would have been otherwise, inconceivable, in the absence of the sport of golf. In this connection, the fanfare, pomp and prestige associated with the Nedbank Golf Challenge must reverberate across Southern Africa. Southern Africa has produced great amateur and professional golfers.

The likes of Gary Player, Ernie Els, Simon Hobday, Nick Price, Mark McNulty and Charl Westhuizen all hail from Southern Africa. The region has abundant potential to produce many more world class golfers.

National sports authorities must therefore contribute directly to the development of the game and not leave it to poor associations, private golf clubs and resorts. The costs of equipment and club membership make it very difficult for any average boy or girl from the townships and rural areas of Southern Africa to take up the sport.

Ways and means must be found of promoting the sport in such under-privileged areas for it to really take toot in Southern Africa.

These are the areas where grassroots golf development needs to take place in earnest. In this way the social, economic and political development legacy of the game of golf can be assured. Southern Africa must produce the stars to effectively compete with Rory Mcilroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and others emanating from Western Europe and North America.

Hopefully, in the future, the winners of the Nedbank Golf Challenge will come from Southern Africa but the work must begin now!

December 2015
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