Screen golf also feeling squeeze

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Screen golf also feeling squeeze

The screen golf market has been growing rapidly, even as the regular golf industry has struggled to make profits. But now, competition is heating up even in that sector.

Screen golf was first introduced to Korea in the 1990s and became very popular in late 2000s, largely because it is cheaper and more accessible than getting out on a normal golf course.

There were a total of 600 screen golf facilities in 2008, but that figure has risen to some 7,000 as of last year. Golf Zone, a company that accounts for 70 percent of the total screen golf industry in Korea, saw its membership grow from 910,000 in 2011 to 1.77 million last year.

The total number of customers now exceeds 2 million, if non-members are included.

“It appears that the number of actual golfers rose in the mid-2000s, when 20 to 30 percent of screen golfers started to head to real courses,” said Choi Jong-phil, a professor at Daegu University who studies the golf industry. “Screen golf did help golf to become more popular.”

But the screen golf industry isn’t doing as well as before, as many start-ups and smaller companies have been moving into the market. Manufacturers of screen golf systems like Golf Zone, sold to anyone who would buy, are spiking the number of facilities and saturating the market.

Golf Zone recently announced plans to address the problem in Korea by limiting the number of facilities that can use their systems through a franchise agreement.

“We will set out details by the end of this year,” said a Golf Zone representative.

It is unclear, however, if this will actually solve the problem. Many owners of screen golf businesses have accused Golf Zone of simply trying to maximize their own profits.

“Only large-sized screen golf shops will benefit from the idea and smaller ones will suffer,” said an industry insider.

“Golf Zone should consider lowering the price of its systems but making upgrades more expensive.”

BY HAM SEUNG-MIN [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]



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