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No Clear Wins Yet for China's Golf Development

Another trap, common Chinese tend to see golf as an exclusive sport for people who illegally earned the money and free time to play. Concerns about ill-gotten country club dues may lurk behind some of the rules on new golf course construction.

When I interviewed a golfer in Beijing about 10 years ago about how the sport was starting to catch on, he asked me as many questions as I asked him and resisted giving his full name. This hush-hush climate could frustrate branding efforts by overseas firms linked to golf.

"My take on golf in China is that it's growing rapidly, much like women's ice hockey in the U.S.," says Larry DeGaris, academic sports marketing program director at the University of Indianapolis in the United States. "It's going from very little to something but we're still talking about a speculative venture here. There's a lot of speculation about a burgeoning Chinese middle class but it's going to take a very long time before golf is a viable mass market leisure activity there."

Investors, hold your swing until China produces humble world golf champion who appeals to China's middle-class. That breakthrough will give the sport the legitimacy it needs for foreign brands to flourish.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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