How big is the demand for public golf courses in Korea?

By: August 7, 2019

I am following the success of the Korean female golfers’ success with amazement and respect.

Thanks to IAGTO, Carlton Carugati, and Angela Jang (S Marketing & Communications) I found out last year:

  • The golf industry in South Korea is worth an estimated 11.4 trillion won (11 billion dollars). Source: Yuwon Golf Foundation Report.
  • The market for so-called ‘screen golf’ services alone accounting for 10% of the total.
  • 8.36 million Koreans are involved in golf. The population who is playing golf at the course is 2.64 million, while 3.51 million people are enjoying screen golf according to Yahoo sports.
  • The number of golf courses has been increased from 521 in 2017 to 537 at the end of 2018.
  • The number of membership golf courses is decreasing, while public golf courses are rapidly increasing. Until 1982, there wasn’t a single public course in South Korea. Today, the share of public golf courses is 50%.
  • The Yuwon Golf Foundation Report says the performance of golf courses in the metropolitan area and major cities will continue to be robust.
The opening hole on the Golfplan-designed South Course at Island Country Club, south of Seoul Korea

Golfplan-Dale & Ramsey designed the very first public course in South Korea back in 1982: a 9-hole, double-green, dual-tee track at Yongpyong Golf Club.

Today Golfplan spearheading Stage III with one stand-alone, public project newly opened and another three in various stages of development.

The first to market, Keun Wi O’Phel Golf Club (see picture below), opened for play outside Daegu (in South-East Korea) in early 2018; it accommodated a startling 120,000 rounds during its first season of operation, according to Golfplan partner David Dale. 

The companion Iris O’Phel design, also from the hand of Dale, will open nearby in September, while two more public tracks — Sehyeon Golf Club and Solseado Golf Club (the country’s first senior golf-residential project; 7,100-yard public course) — are now in construction.

Keun Wi O’Phel Golf Club opened in 2018 outside the southeastern city of Daegu Korea

David Dale said

These initial public projects set the table for Stage II, which began in the 1990s…..The government did not want for the game to be seen as such an aristocratic, exclusionary sport.

So it encouraged private club developers to add 9-holes of public golf, in order to get permitting for 18 private holes.

The 2008 financial/real estate collapse hit South Korea. Some two dozen courses went into high-profile bankruptcy. Development companies went bankrupt. Contractors went bankrupt.

At the same time, some contractors and engineers attached to these projects had enough capital to finish the golf courses, assume ownership of them (at greatly reduced pricing), and operate them as public courses.

Many of the finest public courses operating in Korea today were born in this fashion.

More or less, this remains the Stage III public golf model in South Korea – says David Dale. This was the formula at above-mentioned Keun Wi O’Phel Golf Club as well.

South Korean economy

Korea grew by 2.7% in 2018. This year, the economy will struggle to grow faster than 2-2.5%. The headline rate of inflation of 1.3%. It might reach 3% in 2019.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast for global trade growth this year is only 2.6%, which is slower than global GDP growth (3.3%).

Did you know that Korea is the 5th-largest exporting nation in the world?

I highlighted this information since they support my assumption that the number of public golf courses will continue to grow in Korea.