It’s hard to imagine the sport of golf with more than Four Major Championships a year. Yet currently golf is missing a huge marketing opportunity with the expanding markets in Asia, Oceania and South America. Currently, 3 of the 4 Major Championships are held on US soil (the fourth is held in golf’s birthplace on the links land of Scotland and Northern England) even though many of the world’s best golf courses take up residence in South Africa, Oceania, and China. Yet us as Americans receive all of the spoils.
The United States is still the largest sports market in the world. International competitions are often known to rearrange their schedules or to run frequent replays in order to reach a larger American audience and also the abundance of commercial revenue that comes with it.
However the US no longer leads the world in economic growth. While the US struggles with a worldwide recession and closes golf courses, countries like Brazil and China are opening large exotic golf resorts. (The growth of golf in Brazil has been artificially inflated due to the upcoming Olympics and the addition of golf to the festivities but this should be seen as an opportunity not a negative.) Golf is no longer a sport played by the Brits and their colonial brethren, but rather a worldwide game. There are world class golf courses in mainland Europe, South Africa, China, Australia and New Zealand that do not receive the attention that they deserve.
The PGA currently holds a justified ethnocentric view of these major tournaments and how the PGA Tour state side should operate.
While the European Tour has expanded to include Asian and Middle Eastern markets (in fact their tour championship is known as the Race to Dubai) the American tour hosts only one significant tournament off of American soil. The PGA understands they have an obligation to their golf courses where PGA Members are employed to promote the game here in the US and prefer the revenues the tour generates to be kept here on US soil. However their failure to cooperate with the European Tour or expand its current netting leads to many opportunities south of the American reign of influence untapped.
The Tour also wonders about the additional strain of worldwide travel on their participants. That adding a fifth major would be too strenuous and many of the top players would skip the events due to exhaustion. Also, a fifth major would make breaking current records such as Nicklaus’ less strenuous since there would be more opportunities then Nicklaus’ had. This would then dilute the essence of a major and therefore be damaging to the game. However, with all these negatives there is a solution.
Out of the 6 livable continents on the planet there are 5 with Major Championship Golf Courses ready and the 6th will be ready by the next summer games. The 4th Major (The PGA Championship) should take turns rotating throughout these continents and visiting some of the great golf courses on this planet.
Other sports organizations such as FIFA or NFL understand the importance of hosting their major events in new places to help expand the market, so should the PGA. Most players have already adapted to the strains of travel and one can argue that it is one of the prerequisites of the job. 60 years ago, The Great Ben Hogan played his only Open Championship at Carnoustie because of the strains of travel. However, with the advent of private planes and first class, this travel has become almost convenient for the majority of the players. Also, many players would be excited to play new and exotic golf courses.
There is so much golf on this planet it seems a shame to hog it all. The US Open, Open and Masters have so much traditional no one would want them to change. However, there is a huge opportunity for golf to expand its boundaries with the PGA Championship. There may be some griping at first but in the long run fans and players would love a rotating schedule.