RIYADH: In just a 12-month period, Golf Saudi has introduced thousands of Saudis to the game as part of its Mass Participation program. The organization has also launched the world’s first Arab golf industry education pathway in order to discover and develop future leaders within Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing golf scene.
Golf Saudi’s commitment to its National Golf Sustainability Strategy, which comprised a mandate to create social, green and economic agendas within the industry and is also the first of its kind globally, remains unwavering by virtue of the fact that three of its golf clubs have successfully achieved certification by the GEO Foundation for sustainable golf. Golf Saudi has also organized seven events throughout the year, in both men’s and women’s professional golf, with prize money exceeding $10 million and locations including Jeddah, Bangkok and London.
As part of the 2022 events calendar, Golf Saudi has struck a new relationship with the Asian Tour in the men’s game due to the importance and potential of Asia’s role in world golf and not least due to its position as a global economic powerhouse. The 2022 edition of the Public Investment Fund Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers was the strongest yet, thanks to its place on the Asian Tour, and the diversity of its field was a testament to the strength of the global game.
This partnership has already been expanded to see the PIF Saudi Open added onto the Asian Development Tour in December 2022, which has unlocked many opportunities for players, sponsors and fans of the game, particularly those based in Saudi Arabia, making the game more inclusive for all eligible professional golfers.
Arguably, Golf Saudi’s main focus in 2022, not just in terms of events but also in participation, has been women’s golf. That commitment was underlined when the organization took the important decision last month to increase the prize money of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International and match it with the men’s equivalent at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. The $5 million purse will be the third largest on the Ladies European Tour, a significant five-fold increase.
Majed Al-Sorour, deputy chairman and CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “I look back on 2022 at Golf Saudi with a huge amount of pride. Each year, we are bringing more and more Saudi golfers into the game for the first time and as a result, we are really seeing the strong growth of the game here in the Kingdom.
“This is particularly true when it comes to women’s golf, and our priority in 2023 remains to raise the profile of women’s golf further and give the players the rewards that they deserve. Showcasing the best female golfers in the world as role models is integral to the game’s growth and increasing participation numbers here in the Kingdom.”
Participation for women is not the only element Golf Saudi is focusing on to ensure its own evolution in future years, as it works toward its Vision 2030 objectives. The organization also wants Saudi men and children to have complete access to all its golf facilities. The objective is for Golf Saudi to create a platform that attracts Saudis from around the Kingdom to come and not only witness top-flight sports stars compete but to also give the game a try themselves.
This cause is led by Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation team, who have worked to ensure members of the Saudi public have the opportunities they need to engage with golf.
In 2022, Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation program reached more people nationally across all 13 regions within the Kingdom than ever before. This was all with the end goal of attracting over 140 members and having 200 new players actively playing with a registered handicap in 2023. In terms of schools, Golf Saudi continues to work with the aim of having the game added to their curriculums and to have over 135,000 school participants by 2025. Golf Saudi is also looking to host 700 try-golf events by 2025, in order to bring golf into the community in locations such as malls, parks, sporting events and concerts. It is likewise aiming to implement a “Golf in the Workplace” strategy, which will take golf to the offices of major corporations, women’s business groups and into the Saudi workforce.
This year also saw the creation of Golf Saudi’s first “National Golf Week,” which took place in February, with multiple golf activities and opportunities organized throughout the Kingdom for all generations and playing abilities, as part of Golf Saudi’s Mass Participation program. All Golf Saudi-owned courses and facilities were provided with the equipment needed to engage with new and existing audiences, enabling them to experience exciting activities across a range of locations. Complimentary golf lessons were also provided as well as a school championship for up-and-coming junior stars. Following this success, the Mass Participation team is aiming for over 250,000 people to try golf, via activations in 2023.
Bouchaib El Jadiani, head of Mass Participation and National Teams at Golf Saudi, said: “We have identified multiple pathways for Saudis to get into golf and gain an ongoing interest in the sport. Our view is that when Saudis play a sport, if they have fun, it is far more likely that they are going to come back, pursue it and potentially become future golfers.”
From events to participation and sustainability, 2022 has been a stellar year for Golf Saudi, and the aim is to keep this momentum going for years to come.