Middle East remains the star

By Andrea Sartori

Following last year's launch of the Golf Benchmark Survey, I am delighted that we can again partner with Golf Course Architecture to bring you the results from our second survey.

Attached to this issue you will find a copy of the 2007 summary report that casts a comparative eye on the operational and financial performance of golf courses across the different regions of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA). This year we have also expanded the reach of the survey beyond the borders of the EMA region and performed separate analysis for the Caribbean and the Indian markets.

With almost 1,500 golf courses participating in this year's study (close to double the amount of last year) the benchmark has again provided some fascinating and often surprising insights to the EMA golf market and the peculiarities of specific regions. In order to give you a taste of what to expect I have focused below on a few of the highlight findings from this year's comparative report.

For the second year running, the star performing location remains the Middle East where average revenues (€5.3 million) are an impressive three to four times higher than similar operations in Europe. With several tens of courses in the pipeline, golf in the Middle East continues to drive forward, setting new and extraordinarily high standards for the international golf business.

Courses in the Emirate of Dubai are proving especially successful, with revenues averaging just under €7 million, dwarfing the top five European golf locations – Portugal and the Netherlands (€1.8 million); Spain (€1.5 million); and Ireland (€1.3 million). As such, Dubai has led the way in positioning itself as a global destination for golf.

Golf in the Gulf, however, is also the most expensive anywhere in the EMA region. On average, 18-hole weekend green fees in the Middle East cost €107, more than double the average €50 paid in Great Britain and Ireland. Interestingly though, green fees in the Caribbean are in line with those in the Middle East. Nevertheless, average revenue levels of Caribbean 18-hole courses, at €1.7 million are, although impressive, still 70 per cent behind their competitors in the Gulf.

The least expensive courses to play golf (average 18-hole weekend green fee) are located in India (€14), followed by South Africa (€30) and Eastern Europe (€37).

Other highlights from the Golf Benchmark Survey include: • With close to 1,300 members on average, the membership base of Indian 18-hole golf clubs was the highest in all surveyed regions, followed by the Scandinavian countries, Spain and South Africa • With 33 per cent, golf courses in the Central European region (that is, Switzerland, Austria and Germany) registered the highest share of female members of all the regions of the Golf Benchmark Survey • Golf is now one of the most popular sports in the Benelux countries, and the growth in registered players has outpaced supply growth, primarily due to a strong increase in demand in the Netherlands • The average number of staff at an 18 hole golf course in the Middle East is approximately 188 – more than ten times greater than the average across Europe • Despite 12.5 per cent growth in the number of affiliated players since last year, demand for golf in Eastern Europe remains relatively low. This can be partly explained by the relatively high pricing, despite consumers' significantly weaker spending power • Spanish and Portuguese 18-hole golf courses are among the busiest in Europe, with around 30,000 rounds per year on average. However, both countries are out-performed by the Middle East (nearly 42,000) and South Africa (33,400) • All participating golf courses from the South-East Mediterranean (that is, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey) indicated their future business prospects as good or excellent, reflecting the positive sentiment towards the development of golf in these countries • Golf courses in South Africa, like the Middle East, have year-round availability and high volumes of play.

However, their revenues and operating profits are significantly lower, due largely to their green fees and membership fees being among the lowest across the EMA region.

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