New Delhi: Want to join a golf club but think frequent travel will keep you from the greens?
A Singaporean golf marketing company plans to ride India’s inaugural Johnnie Walker Classic tournament later this month to launch “golf cards” in the country, providing holders with access to and discounts at 12,000 private courses and resorts across the world.
The Organization of Asian Amateur Golfers (OAAG)— which has no real estate but says it has 10 million members worldwide—sees a growing golfing market in India and has set a modest membership target of 25,000 by the end of the year, with an aim to double it by December 2009.
Teeing off: India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia during the final round of the Emaar MGF Indian Masters in New Delhi on 10 February. He won the title. Marketers are upbeat because interest in the sport is at an all-time high.
“We believe it’s feasible,” says Brahm Majithia, chairman and managing director of Apexlynx Sports and Events, the New Delhi-based golf events management firm partnering OAAG in India. Majithia’s optimism stems from the growing number of Indians taking to golf, and OAAG is targeting people who are internationally mobile and want to pack in a few rounds of golf when on trips abroad.
Members will have to pay an annual subscription fee of Rs9,500 and will be eligible to discounts ranging from 10% to 50% at the golf courses that recognize OAAG. The discounts vary from club to club, with a few in Thailand even offering free tee time, says Majithia.
The initial thrust would be on signing up individuals through credit card companies and then the various golf clubs across the country.
The cards come under the brand name of Visa, the retail electronic payments network that provides its financial institution clients platforms for consumer credit, debit, prepaid and commercial payments. OAAG is Visa’s regional contractor in Asia-Pacific, South America and the Caribbean for all its golf services.
The company has timed its golf card launch to coincide with two prestigious tournaments in Delhi: the recent $2.5 million (Rs10 crore) Emaar MGF Indian Masters under the European Tour and the $2.5 million Johnnie Walker Classic (28 February to 2 March).
Interest in the sport is at an all-time high, with the Masters being won by an Indian, caddie-turned-pro S.S.P. Chowrasia. Fijian player Vijay Singh will also compete in the Johnnie Walker Classic.
The main marketing initiative will start later this month, with a press announcement planned for 3 March, a day after the Johnnie Walker Classic ends. A “quiet” beginning has already been made at the Solaris Chemtech Open Golf Championship, carrying a prize purse of Rs30 lakh, and the PricewaterhouseCoopers professional invitational tournament for women last month—OAAG sponsored the golf balls at the events, both of which were managed by Majithia’s firm.
Already, banks such as Deutsche Bank India and HDFC Bank Ltd have begun offering a comprehensive range of benefits, including golf services, with some of their high-end cards.
Cardholders can play at discounted green fees or even free at select golf clubs, the tab being picked up by the bank.