KPMG’s fifth annual Golf Business Forum, 12-14 May, brought the world’s leading companies together in Ireland to honour sporting legend Jack Nicklaus.
The 18-time Major Championship winner was given a minute’s standing ovation when he took to the stage at the magnificent, new Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt Hotel, County Wicklow, to receive KPMG’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
More than 310 industry professionals from 46 countries were in Ireland to welcome Nicklaus and to learn, network and do business during the three-day Golf Business Forum, now established as the leading international event for the golf resort and community industry.
The Golden Bear was joined by many of the golf business’ biggest players, with presentations and contributions from George O’Grady, chief executive of the PGA European Tour, David Spencer, CEO of Dubai-based Leisurecorp, Tenniel Chu, executive director of Mission Hills Golf Club, China, and Eddie Sammut of Confluence, project managers of The Tiger Woods Dubai development. There was also a special presentation on the global credit crisis by KPMG’s chief economist, Andrew Smith.
Andrea Sartori, head of KPMG’s Golf Advisory Practice for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, “This was a significant gathering of the global golf industry and it is a mark of the respect for Jack Nicklaus, and his standing in the international golf business, that so many leading players were in Ireland to witness the presentation to Jack of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“There is no doubt that this was the biggest and most successful Golf Business Forum yet. As David Spencer and George O’Grady revealed, it was at this conference a year ago that the idea for the Race to Dubai was first floated. This is what the Forum is all about, so it will be interesting to see in the coming weeks and months precisely what business has been agreed here this year.”
On receiving his award Jack Nicklaus entertained the audience, saying: “I am honoured to receive this award from KPMG – when it’s a Lifetime Achievement Award, it must mean it’s getting near the end.”
But Nicklaus, whose golf course design practice, Nicklaus Design, is responsible for 328 golf courses in 32 countries, is as busy as ever, with projects in 45 countries currently under development.
“I’ve always been competitive and once I’d given up tournament golf, course design became my competition,” he added.
One of the most insightful sessions at the Golf Business Forum was an interview with George O’Grady and David Spencer on the significance of European Tour’s Road to Dubai and the $10m Dubai World Championship.
“This deal unites the European Tour on a global basis,” George O’Grady, told a packed conference. “It is a partnership and our thinking is intertwined. This deal isn’t just to make players richer, it’s to develop the business – and that’s why this conference is also so important.”
David Spencer of Leisurecorp, developers of the Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, revealed, “We wanted to enter the global golf market and saw the European Tour as the perfect partner. We had talks at the KPMG Golf Business Forum last year and took the concept forward.
“The sum being invested is $173 million, which is vast. But the publicity Leisurecorp has already received from this deal and the benefits to Jumeirah Golf Estates, one of the most important golf developments of the past 20 years, makes me think we have seen our money come back already.”
Tenniel Chu, executive director of Mission Hills Golf Club, China, also wowed the conference with insight into the world’s largest golf resort, a $625 million development featuring 12 championship golf courses, which will host golf’s World Cup until 2018.
“Golf is used as the driver for our real estate,” explained Mr Chu. “We have built 1,800 homes to date and we have immediate success with our residential developments, often selling out on the first day of launch.
“Within an hour’s drive of Mission Hills the population is 100 million, with only 50 golf courses in the same area. The number of tourists is also growing – 131 million people visited China last year and we are seeing golf tourism grow at 7% a year.”
A word of warning was sounded, however, to the wider golf business by KPMG Chief Economist Andrew Smith, who presented on the global credit crisis and its potential fallout. The reasons for the crisis were clearly explained, but there was a note of optimism, with countries including Russia and China providing beacons of economic hope:
“Outside of the main areas and in the emerging markets, economies have a lot of momentum and there is a lot of domestic demand generated,” explained Mr Smith. “The good news is that these economies should continue to rack up strong growth. We are seeing a middle class, perhaps golfers, emerging quite quickly in countries around the world.”
Closing the conference, Andrea Sartori confirmed the Golf Business Forum would return in 2009 at a venue to be announced.
For more information and a soon-to-be launched video of the conference, visit: www.golfbusinessforum.com