Increase in the number of children who hit the fairways

By Liu Zhihua ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-07-04 08:36:54

Increase in the number of children who hit the fairways

A group of Chinese boys took part in junior golf games abroad. [Photo/China Daily]

When South Korean golf coach Park Sang-hun first came to China in 1996, he noted that few Chinese adults played golf, let alone the children.

Now, as golf has gained much prominence in the Chinese sport scene, more children have also chosen golf among a wide range of sport activities, says Park, who used to be a professional golfer until 2005, and has been coaching children in China since 2001.

Although there are no reliable statistics on the number of junior Chinese golfers in 2015, the Forward Management Group, a Chinese leading company in golf industry, estimated in its 2013 industry report that there were more than 32,000 of them in China, and the number is increasing fast.

Most Chinese adults picked up their golf clubs after 2003, and then children got exposed to the sport under their parents' influence, Park observes.

"Golf is a good sport and is good for children's development both physically and mentally," he says.

However, He Jun, a young coach and Park's colleague, suggests that there may be another reason for the increase in the number of junior golf players.

Chinese parents want their children to enjoy the sport, but more importantly, they believe that playing golf will provide the children a competitive advantage when they apply for overseas schools, and also will help them integrate into the new environment while they study or live abroad, because foreign countries attach great importance to sport, He says.

Whatever the case, Park believes that the popularity of golf among juniors will boost the competence of Chinese golf professionals in the near future.

Most of the current Chinese professional golfers did not receive much professional training when they were young, Park says.

Park's coach center has more than 50 regular junior golfers, with the youngest aged only 5-years-old. Most of them go to play the game during weekends, while a cluster of four to five go almost every day, because they aim to become professional players.

The infrastructure for the sport in China is still weak compared with other countries, such as South Korea, especially in terms of modern courses, training centers, and professional schools.

There are also limited golf tournaments and events for junior players, although the situation has improved, Park says.

The shortage of quality coaches remains an urgent problem preventing the development of junior golf in China.

"Many golf coaches in China teach children the same way they teach adults, which is very wrong," Park says.

"Children have different physiques and psychology from adults, and need special training techniques and care."

Zhu Zhizhen, a father of a 7-year-old golfer, also criticizes those parents who push their children hard, hoping they would have a golf career when they grow up.

"My son's generation is lucky in that they have much better access to information and training if they want to play golf, and they also have many opportunities to go abroad to get exposed to the most developed golf environment, such as in the United States," Zhu says.

"But sometimes Chinese parents are too eager for their children to excel in the games, and make playing golf a burden for the children.

"Golf should be fun and enjoyable for children."

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