South Korea woos economy class golf lovers in image makeover

Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:07pm EDT
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By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - If the government has its way more South Korean golfers will be carrying their own clubs, walking between holes rather than riding in a cart, and there will be more public courses.

The government wants more people to play by making the sport more affordable and less elitist.

It is not a mission to find a new generation of champions in a nation that currently fills half of the top ten slots on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour.

It's about money, and is part of a much larger drive to encourage people to spend more, in a bid to offset the hard times South Korea's big exporters are facing.

Inside a 109-page document published last month that outlined efforts to boost a plodding economy were a series of micro-measures dedicated to boosting participation in a range of sports.

But the efforts to democratize the game of golf were eye-catching given the curious place the sport occupies in South Korea's status conscious society.

"Golf has become very popular among the public, while at the same time it has an elitist, extravagant image and is very expensive," Lee Hoseung, the Finance Ministry's director-general for economic policy, told Reuters.

"We feel it is right that we develop golf as a public sport, ease some of the consumers' burden, expand the sport's base and heighten the golf industry's international competitiveness," Lee said, raising hopes of more foreign golf tourists.   Continued...

A group of visitors plays golf at a golf course in Ansung, South Korea, April 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji