Leaderboard Golf, which owns and operates some of the best-known golf courses across the south of England, is to teach Mandarin to staff members and caddies: the first UK sporting organisation of its type to attempt to woo the burgeoning Chinese tourist market and acknowledge mainland China’s position as the fastest-growing international territory for golf.
From this month, key staff at Leaderboard’s Courses – Chart Hills (Kent), Sandford Springs (Hampshire), Dale Hill (East Sussex), and The Oxfordshire (located near Thame) – will receive tuition from linguistics guru Paul Noble, whose unique conversation-based, paper-free language-learning method was recently launched by Collins Language (a division of HarperCollins).
Leaderboard will also be adding Chinese language pages to its new site at www.leaderboardgolf.co.uk
Paul Noble will provide key Leaderboard staff with a grounding in Mandarin conversational structures and greetings, as well as phrases more specific to the game of golf. A particular focus will be on training at the Leaderboard courses with hotels: The Oxfordshire and Dale Hill.
Example phrases to be taught include:
“What’s your handicap?” – “Qing wen nin de pingjun meichang ganshu shi duo shao?”
“Wouldn’t a 9 iron be more appropriate?” – “Yong jiutie hui bu hui bijiao shihe ne?”
“Excellent shot, sir!” – “Da de hao!”
Paul Gibbons, Chairman of Leaderboard Golf (and co-founder and former owner of AutoTrader Magazine), explains the rationale behind the initiative.
“The Chinese have developed a love for golf and in a tough economic climate when British golf courses are fighting hard to get new members, we felt it logical to reach out to this new tourist group and make it clear that they are welcome at our courses,” he said.
“This is more than a symbolic gesture: British businesses of all types should welcome the opportunities that are presented by the new visitors, and, though there are some fantastic new golf courses in China, we want the Chinese to understand that nothing can come close to playing a round in the UK, the country that invented the sport!”
VisitBritain anticipates that Chinese trips to the UK will more than double by 2014, growing by 117% relative to 2008, with almost 130,000 additional visits (representing a 0.8% market share for the UK). This would make the UK the 14th most visited destination from China by 2014.
Growth of Golf in China
In the late 90s, there were only 20 golf courses in the whole of China: the majority associated with the former British colony of Hong Kong. Today, it is estimated that there are 500 golf courses in China, 150 under construction, and 500 more at a planning stage.
The total number of Chinese golfers has doubled since 2001, and is increasing by roughly a quarter each year. It is estimated that there are currently just over 3 million Chinese golf players, the majority having only picked-up a club for the first time during the last decade.
The announcement that golf will be included within the 2016 Rio Olympics (for the first time since the Paris Olympics in 1904) is expected to encourage millions more Chinese players to adopt the sport.
Paul Noble Language Institute www.paulnoblelanguages.com
Leaderboard Golf www.leaderboardgolf.co.uk