Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Golf in Korea, Gangnam Style

Published

on

Greetings from South Korea, a small country in terms of landmass but large in its unbridled enthusiasm for the game of golf.

Koreans’ love for the game is evident in the fact that six of the current top 10 players on the Rolex Women’s World Ranking (including the top two) are Korean born players, and Y.E. Yang remains the only Asian player to win a major championship. And we all know who he had to stare down over 18 excruciating holes…

Not only are Koreans obsessed about playing golf, but the numbers also show that we like to buy things. Lots of golf things.

For example, despite having a little over 3 million active golfers (less than 6% of the country’s population), Korea is the third-largest golf consumer market in the world, only after the USA and Japan. It means we spend more on golf and golf-related things than all of Europe combined.

What’s more surprising is that golf hasn’t even been around for very long in Korea. It was said to be first introduced in 1897 when, to pass the time, a group of Englishmen employed by Korea’s Maritime Affairs and Tourism Organization built a makeshift six-hole course next to the Korean Customs Office.

But until Se-ri Pak’s win at the 1996 U.S. Women’s Open almost a hundred years later, most Koreans had no time in their lives for what they considered a hobby for the rich and the powerful elite.

So just how did South Korea go from a disinterested third party observer to a golf world-superpower in a single generation? How is it that its golfing population is actually on the rise while those in the U.S., Japan, and Europe are declining?

Rise of the Machines

With the ever-increasing number of video games and mobile phones, golf faces an uphill battle in getting youngsters away from the tiny screens and onto a golf course. Korea is no exception to the digital peril.

But in Korea, another type of digital revolution has also been responsible for growing the game of golf among people in their 20s and 30s, and even in their 50s. This growth in the unlikely age groups is credited to the burgeoning golf simulation game generally referred to here as “screen golf.”

Many of you have probably heard about golf simulation systems or have even played a few rounds on them. There are a good variety of systems now available in the U.S., and most do a decent job of “simulating” playing golf by calculating ball speed, launch angle, rate of spin and direction.

But to make a long story short, the current Korean golf industry owes a lot to the rise of the Screen Golf culture, which was first introduced in the late 1990s. As I said earlier, not only was golf expensive back then (still is!), but access to golf courses was also extremely limited.

Although screen golf didn’t quite catch on until about 2005, golfers and non-golfers alike gradually realized that it was an acceptable substitute for the real thing, especially in bad weather and during winter months.

Also, it was easy to access and cheap. You didn’t have golf clubs or shoes? No problem. The rental fee is even included with the modest “green fee” of about $15-$25 per person.

Overall, this new way of golfing allowed more people to experience this great game. Soon, people who were curious but could not readily access golf were eagerly lining up to see what the big deal was.

Today, a screen golf facility be found practically on every city block and many are open 24/7. You or your foursome can enjoy a competitive round or leisurely practice in a private room with hundreds of virtual courses from all over the world.

With millions of virtual rounds being played across the country each week, it was only a matter of time before those who experienced the game first-hand were motivated to further invest in their own clubs and venture onto the golf course.

What began as a means of practice in foul weather and largely derided by serious golfers, screen golf is now firmly rooted as an integral part of the Korean golf culture.

Some simulation systems even utilize an AI-assisted voice recognition software as digital caddies, while others analyze your swing or rank your skill level alongside millions of other golfers across the country and keep track of all data.

The popularity of screen golf has also lead to the creation of its own television channel, along with professional men’s and women’s tour participating in weekly tournaments for hefty prize money and sponsors.

Best of all, it proved that one is never too old to learn the game and that golf can be enjoyed by almost everyone, as it was always meant to be.

Be sure to check out the videos below to see just what the big hubbub is all about.

 

Your Reaction?
  • 41
  • LEGIT6
  • WOW2
  • LOL4
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB3
  • SHANK5

James is a golf gear-nut living and writing about all things golf in Korea. A fan of Tiger, Fred, and Seve, he is forever seeking the holy grail of golf clubs that will lower his score. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada and has been in Korea to witness the explosive growth of golf since 1996. Despite playing golf for over 30 years and being a perpetual 10-handicapper, James steadfastly claims to be the embodiment of the Average Joe Korean golfer. He can be reached at jimmyinseoul@gmail.com, and often introduces cool new Asia-based golf gear on YouTube and Instagram.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Josh

    Jan 20, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Ummm, yah. Pretty sure Y.E. isn’t the only Asian born player to win a major. You even wrote about Se-ri Pak winning the U.S. Open in ‘96 a few paragraphs later. I know you meant to write “male Asian player” but come on. Not expecting perfect journalism on this site but if you’re posting an article here, maybe read it over a couple times? Just because spell check and grammar check don’t underline anything, doesn’t mean it’s factually accurate.

    • Jimmy

      Jan 22, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      Thanks for pointing it out, Josh. Glad you caught on to what was intended despite the missing word.

  2. Shallowbutdeadly

    Jan 19, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    Screen Golf in Korea blows ours away! We need to up our game in North America, winters are long here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

Published

on

Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 129
  • LEGIT16
  • WOW3
  • LOL2
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP4
  • OB3
  • SHANK15

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters

Published

on

Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.

However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.

I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.

There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.

If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.

Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.

Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.

Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!

At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.

Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.

It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”

What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.

You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.

 

Your Reaction?
  • 26
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL2
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!

Published

on

Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending