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Popularity of Golf Increases in Saudi Arabia

golf lesson in Riyadh

In just a twelve-month period Golf Saudi has reached thousands of Saudis as part of its Mass Participation programme, introducing them to the game for the first time.

The organisation has also launched the world’s first Arabic golf club industry education pathway in order to discover and develop the future leaders within Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing club industry. Golf Saudi’s commitment to its National Golf Sustainability Strategy, which is comprised of a mandate to create Social, Green and Economic agendas within the industry and is also the first of its kind globally, remains unwavering by virtue of the fact that three of its golf clubs have successfully achieved certification by the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf. Golf Saudi has also organised seven events throughout the year, in both men and women’s professional golf, with prize money exceeding $10 million and locations including Jeddah, Bangkok and London.

As part of the 2022 events calendar, Golf Saudi has struck a new relationship with the Asian Tour in the men’s game due to the importance and potential of Asia’s role in world golf. Not least due to its position as a global economic powerhouse. The 2022 edition of the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers was the strongest yet, thanks to its place on the Asian Tour and the diversity of its field was testament to the strength of the global game. This partnership has already been expanded to the PIF Saudi Open being added onto the Asian Development Tour in December 2022, which has consequently unlocked many opportunities for players, sponsors and fans of the game. Particularly those based in Saudi Arabia, making the game more inclusive for all eligible professional golfers.

Arguably Golf Saudi’s main focus in 2022 not just in terms of events but also in participation has been on women’s golf. That commitment was underlined when the organisation took the huge decision last month to increase the prize money of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International and match it with the men’s equivalent at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. The $5 million purse will be the third-largest on the Ladies European Tour. A significant five-fold increase.

Majed Al Sorour, Deputy Chairman and CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “I look back on 2022 at Golf Saudi with a huge amount of pride. Each year, we are bringing more and more Saudi golfers into the game for the first time and as a result we are really seeing the strong growth of the game here in the Kingdom.

Al Sorour continued: “This is particularly true when it comes to women’s golf and our priority in 2023 remains to raise the profile of women's golf further and give the players the rewards that they deserve. Showcasing the best female golfers in the world as role models is integral to the game’s growth and increasing participation numbers here in the Kingdom."

Participation for women is not the only element Golf Saudi is focusing on to ensure its own evolution in future years, as it works towards its Vision 2030 objectives. The organisation also wants Saudi men and children to have complete access to all its golf facilities. Saudis are free to visit any golf club just as they are free to visit any other public facility across Saudi Arabia. The objective is for Golf Saudi to create a platform that attracts Saudi’s from around the Kingdom to come and not only witness top-flight sports stars compete but to also give the game a try themselves.

This cause is nobly led by Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation team, who work tirelessly to ensure the Saudi general public have the opportunities they need to engage with the great game of golf. Their skill comes in recognising the importance of creating and developing modern touch points; at home, at school and in everyday life, to ensure the fundamentals of the great game are introduced and a culture of awareness is created away from just on-course activities for all Saudis of all ages across the entire Kingdom.

In 2022, Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation programme reached more people nationally across all 13 regions within the Kingdom than ever before. This was all with the end goal of attracting 140+ members and having 200 new players actively playing with a registered handicap in 2023. In terms of schools, Golf Saudi continues to work with the aim of having the game added to their curriculums and to have over 135,000 school participants by 2025. Golf Saudi is also looking to host 700 try golf events by 2025, in order to bring golf into the community in locations such as malls, parks, sporting events and concerts. As well as a ‘Golf in the Workplace’ strategy, which will take golf to the offices of major corporations, women’s business groups and into the Saudi workforce.

2022 also saw the creation of Golf Saudi’s first ‘National Golf Week’, which took place in February, with multiple golf activities and opportunities being organised throughout the Kingdom for all generations and playing abilities, as part of Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation programme. All Golf Saudi owned courses and facilities were provided with the equipment needed to engage with new and existing audiences enabling them to experience exciting activities across a range of locations. Complimentary golf lessons were also provided as well as a schools’ championship for up-and-coming junior stars. Following this success, the Mass Participation team are aiming for 250,000+ people to try golf, via activations in 2023.

Bouchaib El Jadiani, Head of Mass Participation & National Teams at Golf Saudi, said: “We have identified multiple pathways for Saudis to get into golf and gain an ongoing interest in the sport. Our view is that when Saudi’s play a sport, if they have fun, it is far more likely that they are going to come back, pursue it and potentially become future golfers.

El Jadiani continued: “We are therefore delighted to have seen the continued successful rollout of our Mass Participation program in 2022 across the Kingdom. We look forward to announcing further locations and activations in 2023, which will see other Saudi’s have the chance to try golf for the very first time via our Mass Participation programme.”

Academies at the two Golf Saudi managed properties have seen impressive growth with a total of 1,684 paid lessons delivered in 2022 (282% growth) across both Riyadh Golf Club and Dirab Golf & Country Club, with 49.9% of lessons given to Saudi nationals, 23.3% of participants being female and 250+ new golf club members being signed-up since 2020. New Junior, Ladies and Men’s development programs have been developed and rolled out, all of which provide high level coaching for all ages and pathways to excellence and potential National Team and Elite participation.

In addition to the growth of national participation and active players, there is also significant development in creating the future leaders of the Saudi Arabian golf industry. 2022 saw the creation and launch of the world’s first Arabic Golf Club Management education which is run nationally to populate the rapidly growing club environment with skilled and experienced nationals to lead the industry into the future. A goal of the Social Agenda is to create 2,200 jobs nationally by 2025 and club management roles being part of that.

The game of golf is rapidly developing in Saudi Arabia and Golf Saudi has set itself ambitious targets. Nowhere is this more evident than in environmental sustainability. In 2022, Golf Saudi has once again shown its commitment to the Green Agenda launched in 2021, by successfully ensuring that three of its golf clubs have successfully achieved certification from GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf, the international non-profit entirely dedicated to helping accelerate sustainability in and through golf. Dirab Golf & Country Club, Riyadh Golf Club and Royal Greens Golf & Country Club have all been recognized for meeting the international standard for sustainability in golf and agreeing to further improvement over the next three years.

By achieving GEO certification, Golf Saudi’s courses are now all on a journey to continue to improve, invest and enhance their sites to foster fauna and flora, conserve natural resources, support their communities and focus on climate related actions. This success stems from Golf Saudi’s success in implementing industry policies around carbon and climate, ecosystem restoration, the circular economy and water stewardship. All of the organisation’s clubs will now have their carbon balances calculated, tracking all data needed for emissions and sequestration through OnCourse Saudi digital platform provided by GEO Foundation. By doing this, each club will be continuing and building on the momentum that began back in 2020 with the launch of Golf Saudi’s National Golf Sustainability Strategy; and the footprint will help identify areas for further reduction.

From events to participation and sustainability, 2022 has been a stellar year for Golf Saudi and the aim is to keep this momentum going for years to come. For further information on Golf Saudi and its bold plans, please visit: www.golfsaudi.com

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