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PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tournaments Grow in International Markets/Golf Returns to the Olympics, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The sport of golf is thought to date back to 15th Century Scotland.  Its popularity spread quickly among the leisure class of the time, with King James IV of Scotland thought to have been the first golf-playing monarch.  The game quickly spread on a regional and then global basis and became accessible over time to a wider and wider base of players and fans.  Today, it is a massive global income generator for golf properties, professional players and equipment makers alike.
Established in 1916, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) has 28,000 members who play or teach golf for at least part of their personal incomes.  The PGA Tour was organized to conduct major golfing events at the highest level.  
Professional golf is organized by gender.  The LPGA Tour (Ladies Professional Golf Association) was founded in 1950 and oversees professional tournaments played by elite women players from around the world.  Today, the LPGA also operates LPGA Professionals, a group of 1,800 members dedicated to teaching, coaching and golf facility management.
Professional golf tours rely to a large extent on attracting corporate sponsors anxious to reach the highly prized demographics of typical Tour fans.  Generally the fans are between the ages of 40 and 65.  Fans who become ticket holders to these events have above-average incomes and are prime targets for corporate marketing departments.  A title sponsorship, that is, the highest level of sponsorship that puts a company’s name on an event may require a corporate investment of $7 to $10 million or more.  There is a lot of history here: the first U.S. Open Championship was held at the Newport, Rhode Island Golf Club in 1895.  
Typically, each tour event operates as a charity, returning all net proceeds to various causes.  The amount of money donated by each year by the PGA Tour tops $200 million.  The LPGA Foundation was established in 1991 to encourage and educate young women in golf. 
To its fans, golf is not only fun and challenging to play as amateurs, it is also fascinating as a spectator sport where the world’s top players vie for titles and prize money.  Golf courses are often sited in beautifully landscaped country clubs that photograph extremely well.  The intensity of tournament play combined with attractive surroundings enable tournament organizers to reap generous fees from broadcasters.  Tournament players can win very substantial amounts, with leading winners topping $10 million yearly.  In addition, they typically earn even higher amounts in yearly endorsement fees.  Over time, top players have earned lasting star quality (and substantial wealth), including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman.  LPGA winnings can be very substantial, as well, with the annual prize purse topping $100 million.
Both the PGA and LPGA have been emphasizing international expansion, including the PGA’s World Golf Championship tournaments which have been played on five continents.  
In Europe, the European Tour operates a highly successful golf tour program, lately known as the DP World Tour.  By 2021, a stiff, international  competitor emerged, determined to become a major factor in the golf tour market, the LIV Golf League.  In the fall of 2021, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced its investment of  $200 million in LIV.  Former number-one ranked golfer Greg Norman was the founding CEO of the company.  LIV signed up a stellar roster of top players, attracting them with immense guaranteed incomes.  The new league committed $225 million in total prize purses across eight events in 2022.  The first LIV event, played at the Centurion Club in St. Albans outside London in June 2022, featured prominent PGA players such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.  The PGA Tour responded promptly by suspending 17 players, including Johnson and Mickelson.  As a result, several players sued the PGA Tour.  The PGA Tour also increased prize money in its tournaments and offers players a guaranteed minimum of $500,000 per year.
A major lawsuit between the PGA Tour and LIV was launched, that undoubtedly would have taken many years and immense costs to resolve.  Partly to end the litigation, in June 2023 the PGA Tour and LIV announced plans to merge.  The proposed deal would combine LIV with the PGA Tour’s commercial and business rights with a third entity, the DP World Tour.  The combined business would operate on a for-profit basis.  As of mid- 2023, the deal was under scrutiny by regulators including the U.S. Department of Justice.
Elsewhere, the United States Golf Association (USGA), which operates the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women’s Open and other tournaments each year, also receives major sponsorships.  
When it comes to golf tournaments, hospitality is the operative word.  Hospitality tents are erected all around tournament courses in which clients and top employees of participating corporations were wined and dined throughout the tournaments.  Tournament activities for sponsor-guests vary from a day of professional-amateur play, in which wealthy aficionados can buy a round partnered with a pro, to up-close viewing of three days of play, usually ending on a Sunday when the winner takes the third and final round.  Corporate sponsors, whether title sponsors or those on lower levels, line up to pay for the privilege of association with golf.
Amateur play soared during the Coronavirus pandemic, offering socially distanced, outdoor play.  Rounds played in the U.S. in December 2020 were up 37% compared to the previous month.  Equipment sales rebounded as well.
The PGA is hoping to boost amateur interest with its Play Golf America program, which includes free lessons, as well as links on its web site to a network of courses and facilities that cater to new players; and the First Tee program, which hosts under-privileged kids from urban environments.  In addition, the game of golf got an excellent global boost by returning to the Summer Olympics starting in Brazil in 2016.
GSome golf resorts in the U.S. are building nine-hole courses of shorter length, with par-three holes to attract vacationers and casual players who are short on time.  For example, the Cradle is a 789-yard course adjacent to the storied Pinehurst course in North Carolina.  It’s typically packed with players of all levels, from rank beginners to serious golfers who want to add some holes after playing the full 18 holes next door at Pinehurst.  Another perk on some new short courses and elsewhere are golfboards, which are motorized scooters with wheels and designed like surfboards.  Riders store their golf bags on the front, grasp a front mounted handle and lean into turns to “surf” the course.

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