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Case View with Aashish Vaishnava - Golf and the Art of Networking

Case View with Aashish Vaishnava  - Golf and the Art of Networking
ET Cases, 33 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

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Golf and the Art of Networking
Aashish Vaishnava

I. Golf and the Business Dynamics

1. Can you let us know the historical context of Golf as a sport?

Many countries have claimed the origins of golf. The Chinese and the Dutch have both claimed to have created the game of golf. The Dutch had a courtyard club and ball game and another game played on ice where the ball was propelled towards a post. Meanwhile, centuries ago, the Chinese played a game using equipment remarkably similar to golf clubs, apparently to hit a ball into a hole in courtyards. However, it is only in Scotland that the three essential elements of golf were met.

The game of golf has been played for centuries, but its actual origins are somewhat covered in mystery. Scotland is generally accepted as being the cradle of Golf and a number of other Europeans claim of being the founders.

There is no doubt that the Scots were the true pioneers of the game. The Old Course at St. Andrews dating before 1574 lays claim to being the birthplace of the game; is undoubtedly the oldest links golf course in the world which was first played as an 18 Hole layout in 1764.

As the game became popular, golf spread along the coast and eventually made its way into England. From there it was introduced into the wide reaches of the British Empire by merchants and soldiers, and then filtered outwards to the rest of the world. The Scots carried golf to other lands, including Ireland, England, India, France, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, Canada and the United States.


100 BC: Early forms of Golf traced back to the Roman game of paganica, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball.

960-1279: Games similar to golf – called chuíw án — played with several clubs and a ball are being played in China during the Song Dynasty.

15th Century: The origin of the modern game is usually traced to Scotland.

1457: The Scottish Parliament passed several acts banning the practice of the game, along with football (soccer), because the two sports were interfering with archery practice, which was necessary for national defence. The first act was passed in 1457 by James II, King of Scotland, and it was reaffirmed in 1471and 1491.

1500: The ban on golf in Scotland is lifted and within two years King James IV of Scotland takes up the game himself.

1552: Archbishop Hamilton’s Charter recognises the right of the people of St. Andrews to play golf on the Old Course.

1567: Mary Queen of Scots reportedly plays golf just days after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley.

1603: King James VI ascends to the English throne and his court begins playing golf at Blackheath in London.

1724: The first known reference to golf balls being stuffed with feathers. They were previously made from hard leather.

1729: The first known reference is made to golf in the USA with clubs being recorded in the estate of William Burnet, the Governor of Massachusetts.

1744: The first Rules of Golf are set out by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

1754: The Society of St. Andrews Golfers is formed. It became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in 1834.

1764: The Old Course at St. Andrews is reduced from 22 holes to 18 holes. This became the recognised format for the game around the world.

1848: The gutta percha ball is introduced. It was a solid ball, made by softening strips of gutta percha (dried sap of a Sapodilla tree) in boiling water and then moulding the ball by hand before placing it in cold water to harden.

1860: The first Open Championship is played at Prestwick and is won by Willie Park Senior of Scotland.
1885: The secretary of Royal Liverpool Golf Club came up with the idea of an amateur event in which leading clubs were invited to send entrants. The Amateur Championship is played for the first time in 1885 at Hoylake. It is won by Allan MacFie of England.

1890’s: Persimmon becomes a popular wood for making club heads.

1893: The Ladies’ Golf Union is formed in the UK and the British Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship is played for the first time at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It is won by Lady Margaret Scott of England.

1894: The United States Golf Association (USGA) is formed in New York. One of its most important functions was to serve as arbiter for questions of amateur status. The five charter members of the newly formed USGA were the St. Andrew’s Golf Club of Yonkers, N.Y., Newport (R.I.) Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.

1895: The US Amateur Championship and the US Open are played for the first time at Newport Country Club, Rhode Island and are won respectively by Charles B Macdonald (USA) and Horace Rawlins (England). The US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship is also played for the first time at Meadow Brook Club in Long Island and is won by Lucy Barnes Brown of the USA.

1900: Golf is played at the Paris Olympic Games. Twenty two participants took part (12 men and 10 women) from four countries who competed in 36-hole individual stroke play events for men and women. The women’s Olympic champion was Margaret Abbot (USA) and Charles Sands (USA) was the men’s champion.

1901: The rubber cored Haskell ball is introduced. It changed the way the game was played. The Haskell ball travelled farther than the old gutta-percha ball and cost considerably less because it could be mass produced. The game’s popularity surged in response.

1901: The first Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) is formed in the UK.

1904: Golf is played for the second time in the Olympic Games in St Louis. Only men’s competitions were staged. (A team event of 36 holes stroke play won by the United States of America’s team and an individual event was won by George Lyon from Canada).

1916: The PGA of America is formed and the US PGA Championship is played for the first time at Siwanoy Country Club in New York.

1921: The Ryder Cup is played for the first time between the men’s professionals of Great Britain and the USA at Gleneagles. It is won by Great Britain.

1922: The Walker Cup is played for the first time between the men’s amateurs of Great Britain and Ireland and the USA at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York. It is won by the USA.

1929: Steel shafted clubs are accepted by The R&A.

1930: Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam of The Open, the Amateur Championship, The US Open and the US Amateur Championship in one season.

1932: The Curtis Cup is played for the first time between the women’s amateurs of Great Britain and Ireland and the USA at Wentworth. It is won by the USA.

1934: The inaugural Masters is staged at Augusta National. It is won by Horton Smith of the USA.

1946: The US Women’s Open is played for the first time at Spokane Country Club in Washington and is won by Patty Berg of the USA.

1950: The Ladies’ Professional Golfers’ Association (LPGA) is formed in the USA.

1953: The Tam O’ Shanter World Championship of Golf becomes the first nationally televised golf tournament in the USA.

1955: The LPGA Championship is played for the first time at Orchard Ridge Country Club. It is won by American Beverly Hanson.

1958: Representatives of 35 national amateur golf organisations form the World Amateur Golf Council. They agree to stage the World Amateur Team Championship with teams of men competing for the Eisenhower Trophy, named after President Dwight D Eisenhower. The event was staged at the Old Course in St. Andrews and Australia defeated the USA in a play-off.

1964: A friendly match between the American Curtis team and France is expanded to invite other international teams to establish a Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. The trophy was provided by Mrs Espirito Santo Silva through the Portuguese Golf Federation. A total of 25 teams took part in the inaugural competition at St. Germain Golf Club in France which was won by the home team.

1976: The Women’s British Open is played for the first time at Fulford Golf Club. It is won by England’s Jenny Lee Smith.

1980’s: Metal woods made of stainless steel are introduced.

1994: The Evian Masters is played for the first time at Evian-les-Bains in France. It is won by Helen Alfredsson of Sweden.

2000’s: Materials such as graphite, titanium, carbon fibre and tungsten are used to manufacture golf clubs.

2003: The World Amateur Golf Council becomes the International Golf Federation.

2009: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes in favour of golf returning to the

2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

2010: The 150th anniversary Open Championship takes place on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

2012: Work begins on the Rio 2016 Olympic golf course at Barra da Tijuca.

2016: Golf will be played at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 112 years.


2. When do you think Golf attained the status of a global marquee sport and what were the factors responsible for it to enjoy such as status?

There is no doubt that the development of golf as an organized sport was distinctly British, and Britain produced the first great players of the game. As the early golfing associations or clubs, became established in Scotland and then England, there emerged a group of professionals who made golf balls, fashioned and repaired clubs, laid out and maintained courses, and gave lessons. Many of them were outstanding golfers and would take on all comers in the popular stakes (money) matches of the day. In the year 1900, Golf was played at the Paris Olympic Games. And in 1901 the rubber cored Haskell ball is introduced. It changed the way the game was played. The Haskell ball travelled farther than the old gutta-percha ball and cost considerably less because it could be mass produced. The game’s popularity surged in response.

The British professionals and their amateur counterparts represented the best golf in the world from the second half of the 19th century, when the sport began to gain some world prominence, up to about the 1920s, when American players began to excel. With the tremendous increases in financial rewards to be gained in golf during the latter half of the 20th century, especially on the U.S. professional tour, and with the great mobility provided by jet transportation, golfers from other countries (e.g., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Fiji, Spain, and Argentina) began to appear in the top tournaments.

The majority of professional golfers work as club or teaching professionals (‘pros’), and only compete in local competitions. Few elite professional golfers are ‘tournament pros’ who compete full-time on international ‘tours’. Many club and teaching professionals working in the golf industry start as caddies or with a general interest in the game, finding employment at golf courses and eventually moving on to certifications in their chosen profession. Jack Nicklaus, for example, gained widespread attention by finishing second in the 1960 U.S. Open to champion Arnold Palmer, with a 72-hole score of 282 (the best score to date in that tournament by an amateur). He played one more amateur year in 1961, winning that year’s U.S. Amateur Championship, before turning pro in 1962.

In 1997, golf was forever changed. Young Tiger Woods ran away with the Masters, the most prestigious tournament in golf, dominating the field with a 12-stroke victory. That day changed the life of Woods, but more so it changed the game of golf forever. It was just a small preview at what the future would hold.

All of a sudden golf was cool. TV ratings for golf were at an all-time high. Every tournament wanted Woods in the field because it meant huge revenues in ticket sales, merchandise sales and major publicity. Tiger Woods was an instant hero to golfers and non-golfers alike. He inspired the young to follow their dreams, never give up hope and to realize that anything is possible. Tiger Woods revitalized golf and so much more like nothing else had in a very long time.

Let’s be clear: for the most part I believe in self-responsibility. If you want to make a change in your life, only you can make it happen. But in this case, golf truly owes Tiger Woods for all his contributions on and off the course. If there was never a Tiger Woods, the fact is golf would not be what it is today.

3. What were the key tournaments/events, etc., that put Golf at a high pedestal globally?

The term ‘golf majors’ refers to those tournaments in men’s golf, women’s golf, senior golf and amateur golf that are identified by fans, players, media and history as the most important events on their respective tours. Those golf majors - also commonly referred to as the major championships - define golf seasons, and in many cases, define the careers of the best golfers.

Golf Majors - Men:

The men’s golf majors are the most famous and important tournaments in golf. The four events, popularly known as the Major Championships are:

• The Masters: The tournament founded by Bobby Jones, and first played in 1934.

• U.S. Open: The American national championship, run by the USGA, and first played in 1895.

• British Open: More properly called The Open Championship and run by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

• PGA Championship: Awarding the Wanamaker Trophy, and first played in 1916.

Golf Majors - Women:

There are five majors in women’s golf:

• ANA Inspiration: Originally called the Colgate Dinah Shore when it was founded in 1972.

• LPGA Championship: One of the oldest tournaments in women’s golf, founded in 1955.

• U.S. Women’s Open: Run by the USGA, and first played in 1946.

• Women’s British Open: First played in 1976 and elevated to major championship status in 2001.

• The Evian Championship: First played in 1994 and elevated to major championship status in 2013.

Senior Golf Majors:

Only one of the senior golf majors dates farther back than 1980. That’s in part because the concept of major championships didn’t come to senior golf until the founding of the Champions Tour in 1980. Now, five tournaments in senior golf are designated as major championships:

• The Tradition: The youngest of the senior golf majors, The Tradition, was founded in 1989 and immediately counted as a Champions Tour major.

• Senior PGA Championship: The oldest of the senior majors, the PGA of America began this tournament in 1937 (after prodding from Bobby Jones).

• Senior British Open: The proper name is ‘The Senior Open Championship’ and it is run by the R&A, which added the event in 1987. It has been counted as a senior
major since 2003.

• U.S. Senior Open: The USGA added its senior championship only in 1980, which coincided with the founding of the Champions Tour.

• Senior Players Championship: The PGA Tour has ‘The Players Championship’, so it makes sense that the Champions Tour has The Senior Players Championship.

Amateur Golf Majors:

Two men’s amateur tournaments were once – in the early days of professional golf but before pro tournaments gained pre-eminence – considered among the biggest tournaments in all of golf. It was when Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930. The four ‘majors’ he won were the U.S. and British Opens, and the U.S. and British Amateurs. It was really only in 1960 (because of an article written by Arnold Palmer) that the modern concept of major championships solidified as the four professional majors of men’s golf.

However, many traditionalists still view these two men’s amateur tournaments as majors:

• U.S. Amateur Championship: First played in 1895, and several days older than the U.S. Open (the first Amateur and first Open were played back-to-back).

• British Amateur Championship: Its proper name is ‘The Amateur Championship’. It’s run by the R&A and was first played in 1885.

Note that the equivalent tournaments in women’s golf – the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the British Ladies Amateur – are the biggest events in women’s amateur golf. But they have never carried the ‘golf majors’ weight as the men’s amateur events have.

Apart from these Majors, there are other key tournaments organised by European Tour and Asian Tour. In India, Professional Tour is managed by PGTI and amateur tournaments are promoted by the Indian Golf Union, which is the apex body of golf in the country and is responsible for the promotion and development of golf in India. Starting with only six golf clubs in the beginning, India now boasts of 194 golf clubs and many more are under planning, given the increasing popularity of the sport.

Another popular Tournament is The Ryder Cup, which is a biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States. The competition is contested every two years with the venue alternating between courses in the United States and Europe. The Ryder Cup is named after the English businessman Samuel Ryder who donated the trophy.

4. Which are the countries where Golf is relatively more sough-after sport than other sports?

There are 34,011 golf facilities round the world. However, given that there are 696 new facilities in planning or construction, this number is already out-of-date.

The report compiled by NGF (National Golf Foundation) in America shows the United States of America has, by far, the most golf courses in the world – 15,372 – although this is down from its peak of 16,052, reflecting the toll that recession has taken. America still has almost half the golf courses in the world, though it is only 7th in rankings of population per golf course/hole.

Japan, Canada and England each have 2,000+ golf facilities, though with different land masses and population distributions. Australia is the only other country to have over 1,000. Less than 10 countries have over 500 courses and 18 countries account for 88% of the world’s golf courses, shown in the following table.

According to the report, only 206 of the designated 239 countries in the world have any golf courses at all. Even some of the countries in Europe, which accounts for 22% of all the world’s golf, do not yet have a course, (though you will struggle to work out which ones they are.)

Asia is developing rapidly, but is handicapped by environmental and political restrictions. There is a ban on course development in China because of concerns on water shortage and in South Korea clubs are under particular financial pressures. At present Asia accounts for 14% of golf courses and, with only 270 courses, India is well down the list, although it can boast of one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, Royal Calcutta, established in 1829.

Perhaps surprisingly, most golf clubs around the world are public. Private clubs only account for 29% of the total facilities.

Countries with Large Number of Golf Courses

18 Countries with Most Courses 18 Countries with Most Courses
Scotland 552
Ireland 472
New Zealand 418
Australia 1,628
Canada 2,363
Sweden 491
USA 15,372
England 2,084
Japan 2,383
France 648
South Africa 512
Spain 437
Germany 747
South Korea 447
Argentina 319
Italy 285
China 437
India 270
Total 29,901

 5. What is the size of Golf industry globally and what are the key characteristics of Golf market globally? Or, how would you describe the market structure for Golf globally and what are the constituents that make up Golf as an industry?

Many experts say that Golf is not just a sport; it’s an industry in itself. As a sport and as a business, Golf operates on a huge scale. Although there are no official figures, an estimated 0 million Golfers worldwide play on close to 40,000 courses across the globe. Golf events are close to $2 billion a year, and the Golf tourism market exceeding the $1 billion.

US is the largest Golf market in the world with nearly 50% of the global supply of Golf courses and nearly 60% of the Golfers in the world, which demonstrated that Golf in 2000 was a $62 billion industry, bigger than the motion picture and recording industries combined. A follow-up report in 2007 confirmed that Golf had grown to become a $76 billion industry, with a total impact of $195 billion on the U.S. economy in 2005. Golf is responsible for contributing about $3.5 billion annually to charities across the country, more than any other sporting activity. The Golf industry provides 2 million jobs in the U.S. and total wage income of $61 billion.

In short, Golf is a huge business which is growing despite the financial crisis. Golf is becoming more popular in Asia as Asian consumers turn to leisure activities. In China it is becoming the game of choice for the wealthier as Chinese men and women become rich enough to enjoy their leisure, and there are also signs that in India Golf is gaining momentum.

Investment in property is driving investment in Golf, as seen in other parts of the world. In rural areas, real estate is attracting people to live near courses—though many do not necessarily play the game themselves. Many of the Golf academies driving youth involvement in the game are located in the so-called ‘Tier 2’ cities, purposefully to build awareness of the game and participation. Though the game remains aspirational and a sign of status, the availability of public Golf courses and subsidised green fees are increasing the accessibility of the game in India.

As happened in cricket, it seems to be only a matter of time before the centre of gravity in the game moves to Asia. Just as the popularity of cricket in India means that the sub-continent has become the economic and political centre of the sport, so, although it may take decade, we expect to see the centre of the professional Golf game move towards Asia, with bigger purses and sponsorship opportunities attracting the best players as the game grows in significance there.

Golf industry is a multi-faceted industry encompassing real estate development, tourism revenues, event management, club operations, apparel, equipment, accessories, etc.



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Product code: OB-1-0064B


Aashish Vaishnava, CEO | GOLF COURSE ARCHITECT, Exclusive Partner (Asia) – International Design Group, UK

Aashish has been a passionate golfer from his childhood and his passion made him design a golf course when he was just 16. With over 12 years of professional Golf Course Design experience, Aashish has designed over 15 Golf Courses so far and he has realized that Golf is not just a sport; it’s an industry in itself. Aashish’s passion doesn’t stop at Golf Course Design & Architecture, he has a vision to make golf accessible for people and he strongly believes that more golf learning facilities should be developed in India to grow the game. From time to time Aashish initiates activities which help to promote golf and try to make people get hooked on to golf.

Aashish has also brought a very interesting concept into India called MINI GOLF, which is the miniature version of Golf game which is played on a very compact Golf Course (Mini Golf Course), just using a putter and a Golf ball and it is a popular form of Golf entertainment for people of all ages worldwide and a good revenue source for Malls, Hotels, Resorts, Amusement parks, etc. His vision is to make golf fun for people and he feels that mini golf is the best way for people to start at golf. The best part is, it doesn’t take too much time to play and it’s the most entertaining and affordable option to play golf. Time is not far when you will have a Mini Golf Course in your backyard or on the roof top.

Aashish is actively involved in the planning of various real estate projects in the country, which include Golf Courses, Stadiums, and High End Resort facilities, the total project area ranging from 20 to 180 Acres.

A management graduate from one of the top institutes with diverse experience in the field of Real Estate, Golf, Landscape and Sports makes him one of the most reputed & professional consultants in the country.

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