CEO’s guide on where to play golf
By Bahk Eun-ji
For many business people, playing golf is much more than a means of taking exercise – it is an essential part of business especially for chief executives, who have to meet many people for different reasons.
“Golf provides access to lots of interesting people and business is all about people,” said Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric in his book, “Straight from the Gut.”
That is especially true in Korea where golf courses are used as meeting places for high-profile people, to form networks, discuss business opportunities and from time to time verbally hammer out contracts.
After all, Korea is also an Asian country still strongly influenced by Confucian culture so that relationship between people, like Guanxi in China, play a pivotal role in business.
It takes about five hours for a group of four to finish their game, supported by a female caddie. Moreover, executive players typically have breakfast and lunch together, which can turn into a drinking binge.
CEOs or other top-level executives or leading companies probably have their own list of preferred golf course where they can easily make networks and discuss business.
The preferred courses on their list would have to meet several qualifications: how easy they are to travel to, how well trained the caddies and how spectacular the natural scenery is.
Choi Gee-sung, head of Samsung Group Corporate Strategy Office
The Anyang Benest was ranked twice as one of the top courses in Korea by Golf Digest since the facilities in Gyonggi province were established in 1968.
The club is popular among high-ranking executives of the Samsung Group, Korea’s largest conglomerate. Choi Gee-sung, head of the group’s Corporate Strategy Office, favors the club.
And there are more reasons why Anyang Benest has a top-tier ranking, high-flyers such as Choi, Samsung’s second-in-command to the conglomerate’s chairman Lee Kun-hee, love it.
The founder of the Anyang Benest and Samsung, Lee Byung-chull, the father of Samsung Electronics’ chairman Lee Kun-hee aspired to create a brilliant new golf course comparable to those in Scotland, Japan and the U.S.
He was mostly concerned with getting players to enjoy a round on the course even in the middle of summer and winter when golfers usually don’t want to play.
Since it was first established, the course has been through several huge renovations. There are 80 species of trees planted along the course that enhance the joy of playing.
The club has also tried to keep the establishment exclusive. Their membership is limited and was previously restricted for people under the age of forty. Those allowed to join were vetted by a strict screening process.
The club’s uncompromising exclusively, and quality services, prompted other domestic golf clubs to benchmark its strategies over the past decades.
The Anyang Benest is being renovated this year, and is expected to enjoy a renaissance with its renewed facilities.
Koo Bon-moo, chairman of LG Group
Experts point out that any “prestigious” golf club has to fulfill two criteria – its service including the caddies available should be second to none, and the quality of the course should be excellent.
Konjiam Country Club meets both. The other great advantage is that it’s located close to Seoul.
The Club, covering 1.05 square kilometers, offers two nine-hole courses with separate themes – lakes and mountains.
The mountain course is in wilder terrain that the lake course and offers the best views especially in the fall, because of the thousands of maple and ginko trees surrounding it.
It has a reputation for well-trained caddies that rarely push players to move on to the next hole unlike at other clubs where weekend golfers are like items on a conveyer belt – processed before the next batch arrives.
Once players get on to a course, they are met with perfect green conditions. The club puts special effort into grass and plant management, so the club is more like a grand garden than a golf course.
Koo Bon-moo, LG Group chairman and his younger brother Koo Bon-joon, LG Electronics CEO, are known as “lovers” of the club, which is operated by one of the group’s affiliates.
Kim Yong-hwan, CEO of Expert-Import Bank of Korea
This time-honored golf course has plenty of huge trees, evidence of its long history. One of its most outstanding advantages is accessibility – it is located on the outskirts of Seoul and takes around half an hour for most Seoulites to drive there early in the morning.
The course is popular with beginners, because it is rather simple with fewer undulations, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy a challenging round there. In particular, four holes around the big lake offer variation in the course, even for experienced players.
Export-Import Bank of Korea CEO Kim Yong-hwan is also known as an avid golf fan, and he loves the Korea Country Club, because it is a stone’s throw from Seoul. Plus, it’s equipped with a highly advanced lighting system so that golfers can even enjoy playing rounds in the evening as the sun goes down.