Course operator taps into growing interest in golf

Course operator taps into growing interest in golf

A small three-metre deep potted bunker, called ‘Big Ass,’ at the 18th hole is a highlight of Siam Country Club Bangkok, a new golf course on Bang Na-Trat KM 22 Road owned by Siam Motors.

A member of the Phornprapha family, which owns Siam Motors Group, plans to revamp its marketing strategy for a new golf course to target younger players who have become more interested in the sport.

Pranai Phornprapha, president of Siam Estate & Co, a subsidiary of Siam Motors Group, said the number of new golfers has risen during the pandemic, particularly those aged 15-40.

“The growth rate for new golfers in the US was 20% as people could not travel abroad. They became more interested in playing sports like golf,” he said.

“We saw this trend in Thailand too. This group can replace the foreign golfers who are not able to visit the country.”

Prior to the pandemic, more than half of golfers at the company’s four golf courses were foreigners, including both expatriates and tourists.

The majority of tourists who came to play were Japanese and Koreans, who would arrive on a Friday and depart on Sunday.

These golf tourists decreased from 20-30% of all players to zero. All four courses saw a 20-25% decline in 2020 and 2021, compared with the 190,000 players on the courses in 2019.

Revenue dropped to around 200 million baht per course in 2020 from 300 million in 2019.

The group expects a similar outcome in 2021 as the pandemic damaged revenue.

Course operator taps into growing interest in golf

Mr Pranai says the number of new face golfers in Thailand was on the rise during the pandemic, particularly those aged 15-40 years old.

On New Year’s Day, the group plans to open Siam Country Club Bangkok — its fifth course — on Bang Na-Trat Road KM 21 in Samut Prakan. It is located behind the group’s Nissan manufacturing facilities.

The 18-hole course is 6,753 yards long and has a par of 72, located on a 519-rai plot of land. The group spent 3.68 billion baht on developing the course, comprising 1.08 billion on the cost of the land and 2.6 billion on construction.

Designed by Toby Cobb, a design associate at Coore and Crenshaw Design, the course’s highlights include the contours of the fairway, starting from the tee.

“These features will make our golf course different from others in the Bang Na area,” said Mr Pranai, 32, the second son of Phornpinit, whose father Thavorn founded Siam Motors Group.

The golf course was designed so that both amateurs and professionals could play simultaneously, and it is located close to Bangkok. He plans to market the course to potential newcomers in Bangkok via Instagram, Facebook, influencers and celebrities.

“New golfers include those who stopped playing several years ago and wanted to return during the pandemic,” said Mr Pranai.

The group’s four golf courses under the Siam Country Club brand are located nearby in Chon Buri province, including the 50-year-old 18-hole Old Course, the 27-hole Plantation, the 18-hole Waterside and the 18-hole Rolling Hills.

All are promoted through agents.

Mr Pranai has also managed the group’s three hotels since 2017, comprising Siam@Siam Design Hotels in Bangkok and Pattaya, and Movenpick Siam Pattaya in Na Jomtien.

“The hotel business has struggled since last year, but it is bottoming out,” he said.

“It will not resume until the third quarter next year as the new variant has created uncertainty. Our hotel expansion plans will remain on hold.”

To cope with the impact of Covid-19 on the hotel business, the group expects to boost revenue from food and beverage from 20% to 50% of total revenue by shifting focus to Thai customers.

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