New Delhi: A billion-dollar US maker of golf equipment has decided to tee off in India, thanks to the country’s growing interest in the sport.

Callaway Golf Co., which used to sell its products in India through a distributor, has set up a wholly owned subsidiary called Callaway Golf India Pvt. Ltd, George Fellows, president and chief operating officer of Callaway Golf, said on Tuesday.

Sporty potential: Golfers at the Jaypee Greens golf course in Greater Noida. The market for golf and related equipment in India has expanded 25-30% in the last three years as interest in game has grown. Madhu Kapparath / Mint

The firm is also planning to open exclusive Callaway stores as well as retail products through 200 other points, he said. Golfer Jeev Milkha Singh has been brought in as brand ambassador, and the company intends to start shipping products by next month.

“There are various factors which have made India a very attractive destination for us," Fellows said. “In the last five years, we’ve realized that the country has a lot of potential and is poised for a rapid growth in the sport of golf."

The market for golf and related equipment in India, he explained, has grown 25-30% in the last three years as interest in the game has gone up. “Till about five years ago, India had only 80 golf courses and now there are around 250. Many more are being developed," Fellows said.

Callaway manufactures and sells golf clubs, balls and accessories under Callaway Golf, Odyssey, Top-Flite and Ben Hogan brands.

Callaway Golf India joins the company’s line-up of wholly owned subsidiaries located outside the US, including Europe, Japan, Canada, Korea, Australia and China. Its global business spans over 110 countries and accounts for more than half its annual revenue.

Sport management firms said golf’s growth in India was also being spurred by real estate developers, who were building golf courses to raise the value of their properties. This has led to increased access to the sport, not just in major cities, but in smaller towns as well.

Close to 15 golf courses have come up across the country in the last two years, leading to a spurt in golf tournaments from 17 to 23, according to Rishi Narain, managing director of Rishi Narain Golf Management Pvt. Ltd, a marketing firm.

“In 2004-05, the total prize money for PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) was around Rs2.5 crore, which tripled in 2009 to Rs7.5 crore, a clear indicator of the growing interest in the sport," Narain said.

According to him, Taylor Made Golf Co. Inc. enjoys a 70% share of India’s golf equipment market. “But with the overall interest and investments strengthening in the sport, more companies such as Callaway are making a beeline for the country."

Corporates too are pumping money into golf events, said Mahesh Ranka, general manager of Relay Worldwide, the sports marketing arm of Starcom MediaVest Group. “Though cricket gets 80-90% of the investments going into sports, golf is definitely picking up," he said.