The links draw young Koreans desperate for pandemic fun
Koreans in their 20s and 30s are turning to golf in search of new leisure activities that can replace travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Golf, which has typically been a pastime popular among people in their 40s and 50s, is now popular among younger people with more disposable income to spend on leisure activities because they are unable to travel.
Kim Young-jae, a 32-year-old office worker, recently started playing golf after a friend recommended it.
“As the pandemic continues, meetings and meals with my acquaintances have become much less frequent," said Kim. "By starting golf, I could exercise more and feel less suffocated during the social distancing measures. I have always thought of golf as the territory of the older generations, but I was surprised to see younger golfers who seemed to be my peers at the driving range.”
Lee Ji-sun, a 28-year-old resident of Seongnam, Gyeonggi, has frequented golf clubs with friends and acquaintances since the virus pandemic started.
“I can feel that the overall golfing population has spiked because the wait time at my neighborhood driving range often goes up to two hours over the weekend because so many people come,” said Lee. “As my outdoor activities decreased during the pandemic, I started to shop less, but these days most of my expenses go toward golfing equipment that I buy at department stores.”
Those in their 20s and 30s who are new to golf are racing to buy golf wear and equipment. Sales of golf products at department stores and major distribution channels have shot up.
In September, Shinsegae Department Store saw a 39.7 percent on-year growth rate in its golf shop sales. The sales growth of golf wear was 30.2 percent.
The growth rate for golf wear sales among younger golfers was especially notable. From January to September, the rate of sales growth for customers in their 30s was highest, with 21.1 percent. The rate of sales growth from customers in their 20s and 30s combined was 26.9 percent, surpassing the value for those in their 40s and 50s by 0.9 percentage points.
According to the Korea Leisure Industry Institute, the golf wear market is expected to expand from 2.8 trillion won ($24.5 million) in 2014 to 5 trillion won by the end of this year due to the entry of people in their 20s and 30s to the market. The growth is from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as people opt for golfing instead of traveling overseas.
The spread of the work-life-balance culture has also been luring more people onto the links. Younger people have long considered golf the sport of older people, since it requires a lot of money and time. However, with the introduction of screen golf and other attempts to lower the barrier of entry, the number of younger golfers rapidly rose.
“While the demand for indoor sports dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf became the biggest beneficiary due to the impression that it is safe as an outdoor sport,” said a golf industry expert. “One of the causes for the demand increase in golf is the redirection of golfers who used to travel to Southeast Asia, China or Japan for golf, to local driving ranges.”
The retail and fashion industry, which has been directly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is now honing in on golf equipment through marketing promotions and online shop launches. Shinsegae Department Store is pushing forward marketing initiatives to attract young golfers. In September, it introduced S.tyle Golf, a golf wear boutique for women. The department store is running the specialty store on its online store SSG.com with plans to expand into the offline space.
FnC Organization, a Kolon subsidiary that specializes in fashion, launched an online golf boutique called The Cart Golf in May. The online store brought in 20 golf brands that are not easily accessible in Korea.
“We are planning to discover and develop diverse golf content via The Cart Golf,” said a spokesperson for FnC.
Xexymix, a yoga wear brand, has been rolling out a series of athleisure items that resemble golf wear. Online fashion platform Wizwid added a golf wear category this year.
Leading fashion e-commerce platform Musinsa has been adding more golf wear brands. LF in September launched Double Flag on Musinsa, a brand catered to younger customers. LF is currently in the process of bringing in more brands to its malls.
“Shinsegae will acquire potential VIPs by attracting young golfers through golf clothing boutiques and lowering the barrier of entry to department stores,” said Choi Moon-yeol, the fashion director at Shinsegae Department Store. “As golfing expands to younger generations, Shinsegae will push forward more marketing promotions for those younger customers.”
BY KWAK JAE-MIN [email@example.com]