Business / Industries

Indoor golf driving boom in the industry

By Emma Gongzales (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-15 07:18

Indoor golf driving boom in the industry

Teeing off. A man playing golf at an indoor simulation golf center in Beijing. [Photo/IC]

Centers springing up in China where you can play the sport with help of simulators

Kong Zhaochen moves toward the white golf ball that is lying on the ground. First, he corrects his stance and then swings his golf club with power and pace to send the ball flying.

But instead of slipping the club into his golf bag and walking down the fairway, Kong doesn't move-and doesn't take his eyes off the screen in front of him.

Quite simply, this is no ordinary game of golf with expansive, green fairways and manicured lawns. In fact, Kong is playing at the CEG indoor golf simulation center in Beijing's northeast area of Wangjing.

During the past few years, indoor simulation golf has turned into a major industry trend, appealing to China's craze for preppy sports. While there are no official figures for the number of golf simulation centers in the country, the industry is growing rapidly.

"Although our club has been open for 10 years, indoor golf only started to become really popular two years ago," Kong, a marketing manager at the CEG, said. "And it is because more young people are becoming interested in the sport."

A glance at the golf industry in China shows it is booming with the country's middle class splashing out money on leisure activities.

"The golf sector here was valued at about 6.5 billion yuan ($1.04 billion) in 2013, and it has been experiencing roughly a 10 percent growth rate year-on-year since then," Matthieu David-Experton, an analyst at Daxue Consulting, which offers services to international companies in China, said.

The sport here is even starting to catch up on traditional markets in the United States and Europe. According to the research company Markets Report China, the country has between 920,000 to 1.1 million golfers. And the sport is expected to grow now that golf has become an Olympic event at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Although indoor golf is relatively new, it is becoming a convenient way to play the game in urban areas.

Jeremy Huo, who works in the financial services industry in Beijing, caught onto the craze even though he has been playing on golf courses since 2000.

"Indoor facilities cannot really replace the real game," he said. "But they provide an alternative to golfers in northern China in the winter as golf courses close for almost four months here. And they don't have limited time slots like golf courses."

Simulation technology has also rapidly improved in the past few years, and now screen images and sensing systems can almost imitate the real thing.

During a virtual game, the player needs to hit the ball at a screen that imitates the appearance of a real-life golf course. The screen is connected to a computer with sensors and motion tracking devices to calculate the golfer's shot.

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