My first visit to China was one to remember, to say the least. I started off with a connection flight in Minneapolis-St.Paul that ended up as a 24-hour layover. The jet had engine issues, so I got to spend the balance of the day and night in Minneapolis. Sure wish I would’ve known as there are a couple of nice courses I have been meaning to play in the area!
I arrived in Narieta International Airport, Tokyo, Japan, and then connected to Beijing. I must say that Narieta is one of the cleanest airports I have ever experienced. And, the people are “go out of their way” friendly and very personable.
Landing in Beijing, I was greeted by my contact Yao Zhang and my appointed guide, Bo Zhang. Now I thought the Narieta airport in Tokyo was clean; Beijing’s airport was marble floors, coated concrete parking garage and not a speck of wear and tear. Pretty cool!
Yao Zhang had asked me to participate in the China Golf Show 2009 in Beijing to introduce my Ball Position Trainer we just launched here in the U.S. We met with several people in the golf industry as well as Golf Magazine. Yao had compiled the newest training aids in the U.S. and presented them at the Beijing show. Great fun and an honor to participate.
The show was about one-third the size of the PGA Show in Orlando. However, we were the only golf training booth in the show, and the activity was quite overwhelming with visitors from all international markets. China has already surpassed Japan, becoming the second biggest golf equipment manufacturing country. Though development of golf as a pastime in China has kept in step with the manufacturing end, the world’s well-known brands of golf equipment have already swarmed the Chinese market.
Golf is extremely new to China, having been introduced only 25 years ago. This is as long as I have been teaching and coaching the game! The country alone has only 200 golf courses. Beijing itself has a population of over 200 million.
During my visit I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with Golf Magazine’s China chief editor Frank Liu and assistant editor, John Liu. I was overwhelmed when they showed me a copy of the Golf Magazine cover story I did in March, 2007, entitled “How To Build A Repeating Swing”, translated in Chinese. We talked for hours about golf, teaching, training, coaching and articles. The publisher owns the Asian rights to the publication. They reproduce a majority of the magazine you see here in the U.S. and runs approximately a month or more later then the U.S. publication.
We ended up shooting several articles for their magazine at a Beijing Golf Club designed by Arnold Palmer. The greens and course conditions were near perfect and we filmed and hit balls for hours!
That evening, we all went out for dinner. I don’t think I was exactly prepared for what was on the menu, but I have an adventurous attitude when it comes to trying new things. We headed to the old downtown Beijing where the architecture is amazing. The restaurant was a “locals” hangout and very authentic. We began dinner with duck feet; sounds awful but was actually very tasty. This was followed by traditional lamb intestines that tasted like fresh calamari. Next up were lamb tendons, a soft dumpling in a tasty dark brown sauce. Next, lamb cutlets and sliced beef with veggies. Oh, and a few cold beverages to wash it down. And, if you can believe it, I didn’t even have to use the Tums! Throughout my trip, we ate a ton of food and it was all surprisingly healthy. I certainly didn’t notice too many overweight people in China.
Commuting around Beijing is quite easy. The subway is the way to go and is immaculately clean! You could eat off the floor in the stations as well as in the train itself. 90% of our transportation was on the subway and even on my final day, I walked out of my hotel 75 feet, hopped on the train and was at the airport in 40 minutes. This would have taken more than an hour by car and, even more, it took me straight to my terminal. How cool is that? If we had that in Dallas, I wouldn’t have to live so close to the airport!
I learned so many things about the Chinese and their culture. I will share a couple of them that stood out for me. One, when you exchange business cards with someone, you give and receive the cards with both hands as a sign of respect and courtesy to each other. Same goes for using a credit card.
Second, when having a drink, the toast is a very courteous gesture as it is here in the U.S. The meaning behind the toast is all in how you tip your glass during the toast to show courtesy. By tilting your glass so the rim will make contact on the middle of other person’s glass, you are showing them great respect and courtesy.
I met so many great people in China and can’t wait to get back as there is much that I missed.
By the way, my name in Chinese is Shaw Han Fu (given name means happiness and good fortune), so I’ve got that going for me!
Xie Xie (pronounced she-a-she) is Thank You in Chinese
Gan Bei (pronounced gambay) is Cheers in Chinese – said that way too many times this trip!
Until the next trip to China, Gan Bei!