Polish potential

Sean Dudley
By Pawel Lewinski

Like other Eastern European countries, Poland is currently something of a blind spot on the European golf map. However, it is important to recognise that this area of Europe is still pretty new in terms of golf, and that the game is just starting to generate coverage and popularity. The Czech Republic is a perfect example of a country where golf has experienced such an increase in notoriety, interest and success. In a sense, where the Czech Republic has arrived, Poland now seeks to follow with the rapid emergence of its dynamic golf market.

When visiting Poland, people are pleased and surprised to discover not only the natural beauty of the country, but also the fantastic golf courses it has to offer. Across the nation golfers can visit and play on twelve 18 hole courses, eighteen nine hole courses, and take advantage of nearly ten driving ranges as well as numerous indoor facilities. Most courses are within a sensible proximity of the major Polish cities, so accessibility is not a problem. Courses are almost completely pay and play, mixed membership. Last year was significant for Polish golf with the opening of two outstanding new golf courses. One of them will soon host the European Challenge Tour; the first time in history a Polish course has done so.

Golf is still somewhat expensive for Polish people. Membership and green fees are on an average European level, but the average Pole's income is a quarter of his European counterparts. Despite this, there is encouraging evidence that interest in golf is growing. This is partially due to the promotional programmes run by the Polish Golf Union. Such promotions include free lessons for kids and reduced prices for adults. In 2006, 923 green cards (golf licences needed to play in a given country) were issued and more than 5,500 people attended golf lessons under the watchful eye of a professional golf instructor.

There is also healthy support from Polish companies, with over 200 golf events this year receiving corporate sponsorship. In total it is estimated that around 20,000 people experienced golfing activity during 2006. Polish golf has also improved its media visibility, featuring in TV advertisements and receiving increasing coverage on sports review programmes. All this exposure results in increased interest in the sport from the public. Golf was mentioned in the media 2,315 times, which is an increase of 15 per cent since last year. Nowadays, on many golf courses the lesson schedule is so busy, booking way in advance is essential if you ever want to get anywhere near the green.

There is certainly room for further development in all aspects of Polish golf.

There is a feeling that the country is perched on the cusp of an immense surge in the success and popularity of golf, similar to that observed in neighbouring East European countries.

With an abundance of beautiful land perfect for golf facilities and available at a reasonable price, there are many great golf investment opportunities to be had.

There is still a need to create golf resorts and housing (none exist in Poland so far) as well as small, community driving ranges or short courses. All golf investments so far have been made by Polish owners, with the first Polish golf course sold this year. I believe the residential golf course model will be especially popular in Poland because of the overall boom in the housing market and the trend towards more attractive and exclusive places to live.

It is also important to consider the contribution of golf tourism to Polish businesses. More and more people are travelling from Scandinavia to visit Polish seaside courses and explore the interesting inland venues on offer.

Poland's overall economic situation has also played a large part in the investment golf has received. Economic growth of seven per cent since last year indicates a vast improvement in terms of Poland's general development. Such prosperity is good for the Polish golf market on all fronts, for golfers and architects alike.