However, while golf’s Olympic inclusion has helped raise the profile of the game that Mark Twain once hailed as “a good walk spoilt” in China, there are other factors in play.
Golf’s surge in popularity in China can also be attributed to the growth of disposable income: by 2015, over half of China’s population will have an annual income of over $7,300 meaning they can now afford to get to grips with golf which was previously considered to be an expensive sport.
The game - often described as ‘green opium’ - got a further boost in China during the 2008 recession. While America and Europe plunged into economic doom and gloom, the Middle Kingdom managed to remain immune to the global financial turmoil. This resulted in golf architects and PGA tours alike flocking to the country to take advantage of China’s ability to shrug off the financial crisis.
Case in point? Take Tim Finchem – golf’s departed PGA Tour commissioner (he stepped down 1 Jan 2017) – and his decision to relocate the Omega World Cup event to Mission Hills Shenzhen at the height of the global financial crisis. Since then, the A-list likes of Catherine Zeta Jones, Hugh Grant, and Matthew McConaughey have all played and stayed at Dr. David Chu’s mammoth Mission Hills Haikou – a golf club that’s one and half times the size of Manhattan.