The Pellucid Perspective - September 2011 - (Page 2)

THE GAME ABROAD The China syndrome By Jim Dunlap The China golf market offers huge potential for American companies, and just as many challenges. We offer a candid look at the yin and yang of golf’s brave new world from some who know both first-hand. T he massive expanse of China, with nearly four times the population of the United States and only about 500 courses to fuel a growing demand for golf and related real estate development, presents a tempting target for American architects, contractors and suppliers for whom a new golf course is a rare opportunity in their homeland. Most are finding, however, that the target is a moving one in China, with conditions, terms, regulations and even the fate of the project or the deal changing virtually daily. “Every day is a new challenge in China,” said Werner Jayson, CEO of Asian Pacific Leisure Group and a 20-year veteran of golf business in the Orient. “When I go back home to the U.S., I almost get bored because everything is pretty much how you expect it to be from day to day.” There is no disputing the much publicized Chinese potential for golf course development, which is unheard of since the NGF’s ill-fated mandate in the late 1980’s that America needed to “build a course a day” to meet player demand. Given the disparity between the income levels and golf tradition of the American public at that time and the Chinese populace of today, it is not surprising that even China’s multitudes will not support a new course a day, but knowledgeable observers such as former ClubCorp Asia hand, CNL executive and current Pacific Links International representative Rudy Anderson estimate that China could produce 2,000 more new courses in the next 10 years. U.S.-based golf architects have literally flocked to China in search of new course design contracts. Most major design firms have offices there, and virtually everyone who has any realistic hope of getting a design contract has an in-country representative at the very least. American contractors were slower to take the plunge, but companies such as Landscapes Unlimited are now firmly entrenched in China, thanks in part in Landscapes’ case to their partnership with ubiquitous Chinese golf promoter, operator, tournament organizer and development consultant Forward Golf Management. Suppliers in every facet of the golf business drool over the prospect of so many new client courses. Asian Pacific Leisure Group’s Jayson, whose company, among other things, trains Chinese golf professionals in golf business operations, said when they take a group of their students to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, “They’re treated like rock stars.” One thing that everyone we talked with stressed is that doing business in China has about as much in common with American business practices as Chinese gymnasts have with a Weight Watchers class in Kansas City. Take the Asian preoccupation with saving “face,” their commitment to relationships as the basis for every business decision, and an almost fanatical devotion to the bottom line, and you have a recipe for disaster for any foreigners who have not learned and adapted to the culture. “If somebody thinks they’ll come over the first time and sign a bunch of contracts, they’ll be disappointed,” said Rick Robbins, a successful Raleigh, N.C.-based architect who first worked in Asia more than 20 years ago as a Nicklaus Design associate and currently has four or five active new course design projects in China. “Getting established there is a long process,” said Kenne James, a key front man in golf development for the Toro Company’s international business division. “The guys who are moving there, like Steve Forrest, Dana Fry, Neil Haworth and Mark Hollinger are getting a lot of work.” The Schmidt-Curley firm of Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, which maintains several China offices and has one of the two principals in China virtually yearround, is probably the busiest American design firm in the country over the past decade, although Nicklaus Design and other major international design players have been represented there for years as well. “One thing you have to understand about the Chinese is that you have to build a relationship,” said Tommy Sasser, a golf industry veteran and current consultant who cut his China teeth with the Nicklaus organization many years ago. “The first three or four days after you get there they’ll be taking you sightseeing and entertaining you, just to get to know you. You don’t start to actually negotiate until the last day.” When is a deal not a deal? A whole new approach to doing business One of the most common threads in our conversation with China golf veterans was the need for “flexibility.” In American boardrooms, that would more typically be phrased as “Hey, that’s not what you said yesterday, and that’s not what the contract says!” In China, those complaints would be perceived as an assault on the Chinese client’s “face,” and an indication that the complainant is too rigid to make a satisfactory negotiating partner. Whereas American businesspersons view such changes as shady dealings, Chinese feel they are just standard negotiating sePTember 2011 2 The Pellucid PersPecTive

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - September 2011

The Pellucid Perspective - September 2011
Contents
The China syndrome
Shift happens: The impact of Hispanic growth on local golf markets
Promoting rounds at rate card — a novel concept?
Promoting rounds at rate card — a novel concept?
There’s golf in them thar’ (sand) hills
August weather impact, July utilization
Seattle, WA Core Business Statistical Area (CBSA)
Seattle, WA Core Business Statistical Area (CBSA)
The long and the short of it

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