GET­TING GOOD MONEY ON THE COURSE

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY SPECIAL - By BELLE TAY­LOR

Bobby Miller ar­rived in Bei­jing in 2000, fresh from help­ing to es­tab­lish golf cour­ses in Hainan. His wife is from the cap­i­tal and Miller wanted a job that was sta­ble, al­lowed him to live in Bei­jing, and would in­dulge his love of golf.

He also heard there were few peo­ple teach­ing golf in Bei­jing.

“There was an Aus­tralian man and his son and a Swedish guy and they all had con­tracts — the Aus­tralian’s with Sony Eric­s­son, the Swedish guy with Volvo. They had th­ese awe­some deals where they were get­ting paid lots of money,” he says, de­scrib­ing the other golf in­struc­tors in Bei­jing at that time.

“I came into the mix and I built up a good rep­u­ta­tion but I never had that sup­port, I had to build up ev­ery­thing on my own,” says Miller, who is from the United States.

He is now one of a small army of for­eign golf in­struc­tors liv­ing and work­ing in China, pass­ing on their skills and knowl­edge to ex­pa­tri­ates want­ing to im­prove their swing, Chi­nese busi­ness­men who want to bro­ker deals with for­eign clients on the fair­way and am­bi­tious teenagers who see golf as a gate­way into an elite US col­lege.

Lessons don’t come cheap. Miller charges 900 yuan ($147) for one hour’s in­struc­tion, and the price only re­duces if you buy more lessons. Few in­struc­tors charge less, plenty charge more.

Ralph Howe, also from the US, ar­rived in Bei­jing in March 2010 and found a boom­ing de­mand for golf in­struc­tion.

“I did not have to drum up busi­ness,” says Howe. “I came here with a com­pany with a very good driv­ing range and a very good lo­ca­tion, I never had any con­cerns about find­ing clients.”

Howe, who played pro­fes­sional golf for nine years, says for­eign coaches are pass­ing on their knowl­edge of the game to lo­cals.

“I think in other coun­tries there is a big­ger base of knowl­edge and there is more ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing over with the for­eign coaches, but I think the Chi­nese coaches are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.”

Howe says he would not like to haz­ard a guess as to how many for­eign coaches are cur­rently op­er­at­ing in China, but says there are: “prob­a­bly more than I think”.

“I know that ev­ery year more and more are com­ing.”

Andy Friis, the Nor­we­gian co-founder of the Play­ers Club, golf in­struc­tor and as­sis­tant coach to the Tian­jin golf team, says the Chi­nese Golf As­so­ci­a­tion has a sys­tem to pro­vide ac­cred­i­ta­tion for in­struc­tors. He says coaches can vary in their qual­ity and skills.

“I would say it is quite easy to be­come a coach in China,” says Friis.

“The for­eign­ers, some have many years of ex­pe­ri­ence but I would say most come and go.”

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