Of US golf courses

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Mugove Chigada
President Mnangangwa’s example of Americans’ love for golf was a light moment for the audience at the World Economic Forum.

He suggested that he could ask President Trump to come and build more golf courses in Zimbabwe, lightening the moment on the contentious “sh*thole” utterances.

The Zimbabwean President was partly supporting his point on re-engagement with countries that were previously hostile to Zimbabwe.

“If President Trump comes here today when I’m still around, I will be able to talk to him. I will be able to make a request to him and say, ohh Mr President, Zimbabwe is open for business, I know Americans like to play golf, come and build golf courses at Victoria Falls,” President Mnangagwa said.

To a golf enthusiast, investment in such facilities, though not a priority area in the short-term, can still be music to the ear. The US is indeed king when it comes to golf courses.

When Zimbabwe had 39 top golf facilities recognised by the “Golf Around the World 2017” survey by end of 2016, the US had  around 14 922. Against that background, asking for such an investment is not much of a light example after all.

According to the report, golf facilities remain concentrated in the top 10 golfing countries. Beginning of 2017, there were 885 golf facilities in Africa for a population of about 1,2 billion.

This is compared to 17 748 golf facilities in North America for a population of about 530 million (this includes Central America and Caribbean), about half of the world golf facilities which were at 33 161.

According to the same report, Asia (including the Middle East) has 4 570 golf facilities for a population of about 4,4 billion.

Europe, with a population of about 739 million, boast of 7 233 golf courses. South America’s 658 facilities are for a population of about 420 million while Oceania’s population of around 40 million share 2 067 golf facilities.

It is concluded that the sport and facilities are concentrated in the top playing nations, with US being the biggest.

“As of year-end 2016, there were 33 161 golf facilities in 208 of the world’s 245 countries. That’s an 85 percent diffusion rate of the sport globally. Still, the sport is geographically concentrated, with 74 percent of the world supply of courses located in the top 10 golfing countries: the United States, Canada, Japan, England, Australia, Germany, France, Scotland, Sweden and South Africa,” said the report.

“The majority of worldwide supply is located in the western hemisphere. North and South America are home to 55 percent of world supply; the US alone claims 45 percent of the world’s total. Europe has the second largest regional share with 22 percent of the world’s total, followed by Asia with 14 percent and Oceania with 6 percent.”

Reality in Africa is that the sport is still far from being one for the average citizen but more facilities could still be developed for tourism and golf.

South Africa Travel publication estimates that there are about 500 facilities in SA, more than half of Africa’s total facilities of 885. Golf Around the World, however, puts SA recognised golf facilities at 484 after 2016.

For Zimbabwe, the positive thing is the country is in the top five with 39 recognised golf courses. The other countries in the top five are Nigeria with 51, Kenya 42 and Morocco 40.

The report, however, points out private ownership of some facilities cannot be reason to point out restriction.

“Though the sport has traditionally been associated with private clubs where play is essentially restricted to members, in fact golf worldwide is overwhelmingly played at facilities where non-member play is possible, with 75 percent of courses open to the public in some form or another on a “pay per play” basis.”

And then there is also a preview of the future. The results though show there could still be a huge gap between the North and the South.

About 99 golf facilities were at the planning stage while 57 were under construction in North America at the beginning of 2017. This is compared to 23 in planning and 28 under construction for the rest of the Africa, to add to the few already in existence.

Given golf players’ desire for adventure, the fact that Africa has 3 percent of existing facilities and 9 percent under construction, it may not sound far far-fetched to have more in Zimbabwe for golf and tourism.

Feedback: Email — chigadam@gmail.com. Twitter —  @mugovechigada.

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