HSBC Business Forum gathers in Abu Dhabi to discuss golf’s future

Joy Chakravarty 13:50 30/04/2014
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Looking ahead: Giles Morgan at the Golf Business Forum.

Giles Morgan, the head of global sponsorship of HSBC, said golf is in much better health than it realises, but it has to unlock its potential.

Morgan was delivering the keynote address at the HSBC Golf Business Forum at The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, on a fascinating day of panel discussions and question and answer sessions that focused on some of the key challenges being faced by the industry.

What also came out very clearly was that the Royal & Ancient sport was banking heavily on Asia as not only its key growth market, but also to provide future champions.

On the opening day at a very well-attended forum, Morgan said: “Globally, golf is in a healthy position, especially in emerging markets, 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 the time to discuss the future of the game. The industry needs to be innovative which is only possible by connecting the world of golf. It is exactly why the HSBC Golf Business Forum is vital and why we are proud sponsors of the only event of its kind in the world.”

Morgan added there are three key trends driving the game – a growing middle class, economic development parallel with demand for golf in new and emerging markets and growing female participation.

“Golf has been rebounding over the past couple of years in line with the improved global economic outlook, but we cannot get complacent. 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,” Dawson concluded.

One of the concerns raised about golf in recent times is that it is unable to attract youngsters, and that television broadcast is mostly consumed by viewers over the age of 35.

The first session of the day saw a brilliant presentation from Thimon de Jong of Whetson Trend Interpretation Agency on ‘Who are the Millennials?’ The Millennials are the 18-30 age group, which is viewed as the key to sustained growth of golf. De Jong – a leading ‘futurist’ and one of the world’s most sought-after experts in consumer behaviour and societal trends – spoke on how they process news on the new media.

The second session, which included Peter Dawson, chief executive of golf’s governing body, R&A, and IMG’s head of golf business Guy Kinnings among others, focused on various issues like the growing markets for the sport and the influence of technology.

The third session ‘The Performance Lab’, again forced the participants to think out of the box. It started with former England cricketer Ed Smith’s take on whether sport should be an art or science, and how data is playing an ever-increasing role.

Italian golfer and Abu Dhabi’s golf ambassador Matteo Manassero then took over and gave his perspective on how analytical golf has become for top-level professionals.

Thereafter, Dr. Geoff McGrath, managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, dwelled on how his engineers are making a difference through data analysis not only with the F1 giants, but also in other sports and daily lives of people.

The final session of the day saw the release of KPMG’s new research ‘Golf Course Development Cost Survey 2014’, and some great insight into the business of global golf development by Troon Golf’s Dana Garmany, IAGTO’s Peter Walton and National Golf Foundation’s Joe Beditz.

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