29 Aug 2012
Ewan Porter (above) believes golf will receive a significant boost from the Olympics.
The introduction of golf as an Olympic sport from 2016 is arguably the greatest thing to ever happen to our game.
Whilst there have been plenty of detractors and those who are adamant that golf shouldn’t have become a part of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, the long-term benefits our game will acquire are priceless.
One of the greatest aspects of the 2016 Olympic golf tournament will be the host country, Brazil.
Brazil certainly is not known for its golfing prowess on the world stage and this blends in romantically with the edition of our sport into the games. It also links perfectly with the US PGA Tour’s decision to heavily promote the game in South America.
They now run the minor-league professional golf tour formerly known as the “Tour de Las Americas” that currently runs under the umbrella of “LatinoAmerica”.
For over a decade, the PGA Tour’s second-tier Web.com Tour have staged events in the Central American region of Panama as well as Mexico and just recently have added the South American nations of Colombia and Chile to the schedule.
Having competed in all of the above events, the enthusiasm and support shown by these relatively obscure nations to spectate and be entertained by what could easily be perceived as second rate performers is extremely gratifying.
The European Tour showed insight many years ago when the opportunity to expand their multi-million dollar corporation into the emerging oil-rich and wealthy regions of Asia and the Middle-East presented itself. Now well and truly established on the European Tour’s itinerary, the season long race to determine the tour’s best player culminates with an event in the United Arab Emirates – the Dubai World Championship.
It is tremendous to witness the continual growth of golf on a global scale. For decades, diehard golf fans have been exposed to the beautiful, windswept links of Scotland and Ireland, the fascinating sandbelt region of Melbourne, Florida’s family friendly resort style layouts and, recently, the abundance of golf courses being developed in China.
With the induction of golf into the world’s most cherished sporting arena, it is not silly to expect a rapidly escalating interest in the game that spreads to more remote corners of the globe.
In 2011, it was revealed that Turkey was the fastest growing golfing destination in all of Europe. A statistic in India last year revealed that since the turn of the 21st century, golf club memberships had more than quintupled. Since 2002, over 500 new golf courses had been developed in Vietnam.
The European Challenge Tour, which is an affiliate of their larger contemporaries the European Tour, have now expanded their international schedule comprising of venues such as Russia, Kenya, Poland, Norway and Kazakhstan.
In recent times, we have witnessed the seemingly endless display of talent coming from the Asian region. This is a natural progression that ties in with the growth of the game there from course designs to television coverage of overseas golf tournaments to established regional golfing circuits. Of course there is also the domino effect of one player succeeding and others following their lead.
Australia, South Africa and England are the other nations that stand out when it comes to talent on the international stage. Successful junior programs, a climate-friendly environment and first class facilities are all contributing factors and gradually we are witnessing less prominent nations wisely follow suit.
One glance at the weekly results from professional tours across the globe will testify to this.
Golf on the big screen has always showcased the artificially enhanced lush layouts of the United States. To anybody who remotely follows sport, viewing the crusty old links of the UK is an image as vivid as the hallowed turf of Wimbledon.
What has really yet to be projected is the phenomenal array of golfing destinations that remain under the radar and out of the spotlight. These can only remain a secret for so long.
As our sport grows and the interest broadens, the opportunities for golf architects and course designers will be endless. The world’s best designers have already forged ahead with developments in regions such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Morocco and Bulgaria.
With the increasingly mind blowing advancements in technology, the world we live in today is becoming smaller and smaller. Travelling to any foreign destination generally takes no longer than twenty-four hours.
The focus of golf and its stars has gradually shifted away from the powerful nation of the United States and for the enhancement of our game this is an extremely positive thing.
Whilst the USA still possesses more golfers in the Top 100 in the world golf rankings than any other nation and the majority of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments are held on US soil, it is imperative for the continual growth of our sport that the focus shifts to emerging nations and nations that are on the cusp of exploding to the forefront of the minds of the public.
We’ve all heard of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day’s stories of witnessing the jaw-dropping feats of Tiger Woods at an early age as being the major inspiration for their pathway into golf and it will be of no surprise in the very near future if the introduction of golf into the Olympic games becomes the primary reason for our future stars’ participation in our sport.
Ewan Porter is an Australian professional golfer who most recently played on the Web.com Tour in the United States. He won twice on that Tour - the 2008 Moonah Classic and the 2010 South Georgia Classic and is a freelance columnist for GolfAustralia.org.au His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. You can follow him on Twitter: @ewanports