In what is turning into golf’s equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Golf Summit, run by the ‘esteemed!’ Asian Golf Monthly Magazine, is once again honoring celebrity golfers in 2010, this time under the pretence of a balanced debate on the future of golf in Asia.
Gary Player, one of three past-champions who spoke at the 2009 Summit, clearly enjoys back-patting and returns this year to accept the ‘prestigious’ Asia Pacific Life-Time Achievement Award for golf, presented at a special ceremony in his honor.
Last month a similar industry gathering in Turkey, the KPMG Golf Business Forum, presented Greg Norman and Annika Sorenstam with special awards for services to the sport. Norman and Sorenstam are also guest speakers at the Asia-Pacific Golf Summit, and sure to receive further fuzzy endorsements from publisher Mike Sebastian and the magazine’s conference team.
Last year Sebastian had an opportunity to ‘tell it like it is’ and inform the industry in Asia that, despite perceptions, the game there is not actually at a world-class level. There are few, if any, Asian courses that have garnered true international acclaim, and none that I can think of which serious golfers would travel out of their way to experience. This despite plenty of great coastal land and dramatic golf terrain across the region.
As more and more second and third-tier architects descend on Asia, and the celebrity signature designers get even greater recognition, the chances of Asia actually producing world-class golf courses slips further and further away. A magazine like Asian Golf Monthly, does its readers and the industry at large a huge disservice spreading untruths about how many great courses the region has. Until developers realise what great golf really is, and that the famous tournament courses in Asia are over-rated, the chances of improvement are slim.
Rather than celebrating the playing achievements of former champions in a forum discussing golf course development, they should instead be promoting open, and independent debate about how golf in Asia can grow and improve.
Looking at the companies who sponsor the Asia Pacific Golf Forum doesn’t instil one with great confidence that an independent perspective on Asian golf is coming soon. Celebrating signature golf, which is really what the Asia Pacific Golf Forum is all about, does nobody any good.