S. Korean golf lovers undaunted by COVID-19 infection at golf course

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : October 29, 2020, 13:06 | Updated : October 30, 2020, 08:08

[Gettyimages Bank]

SEOUL -- A friendly group game barely arranged by college alumni has left more than 50 people infected with COVID-19, threatening to throw cold water on a fresh golf boom in South Korea. However, golf lovers seem not too frightened, clogging reservation windows to have rounds before the end of this year's season.

Dozens of people wined and dined at a restaurant after holding a group game at a golf course in Yongin, 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Seoul, on October 17. The gathering has left at least 51 people infected with COVID-19 as of October 29, leading to the closure of the golf course.

During the high season that usually starts in late April, it's very difficult to make reservations at any golf course near Seoul because of what has been dubbed a "booking war" among millions of enthusiastic golfers. The booking war intensified this year as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic sent many indoor golf fans going out to outdoor golf courses.

"This year, COVID-19 has caused a noticeable increase in demand for outdoor activities such as golf and hiking, rather than indoor sports facilities where public concentration is high," said Seo Yong-gu, a professor of business administration at Sookmyung Women's University. "Furthermore, the number of people who want to enjoy leisure time at golf courses is increasing due to restrictions on overseas trips."

The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to sales at department stores, retail shops and many other business areas. "In particular, sluggish sales in the clothing industry have been noticeable, with inventories of suits and business casual, which are the core of clothing sales, increasing due to a decrease in face-to-face activities," Seo said.

With the growing popularity of golf, the clothing industry has no choice but to focus on golf marketing, Seo said. As the population of golfers grows younger, there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for golf wear and golf-related items among fashion-conscious people in their 30s who have led the generalization of golf.

Shinsegae, a major department store franchise, said that sales at shops selling golf clubs and related items in August rose 39.7 percent from a year ago. Sales of golf clothing rose together. Among customers in their 30s, sales of golf wear in the first nine months of this year were up 21.1 percent from a year earlier, reflecting the growing popularity of what used to be an expensive sport.

Shinsegae is conducting a variety of marketing campaigns to attract young golfers such as S.tyle Golf, an online editing shop launched in September for young female golfers who want trendy casual golf wear. "We plan to attract young golfers through a golf clothing editing shop while lowering the threshold of department stores and securing potential VIPs," said a Shinsegae official on condition of anonymity.

Sportswear brand Fila Korea has released "Aimline," a collection of stylish golf wear covering not only golf courses but also everyday life for young golfers who value style and individuality, along with the original function of golf wear, by using materials and designs suitable for the season.

Lotte Homeshopping launched a golf-themed program on October 18. The program airs every Sunday for 70 minutes with differentiated sportswear. From August 1 to October 11, golf equipment orders more than doubled compared to the same period last year, the home shopping company said, adding orders placed by those in their 20s and 30s were up 130 percent on-year.
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