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home | Korean Golf Secrets | How is Korea producing so many good . . .

How is Korea producing so many good golfers?

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These are exciting times for South Korean golf. Currently the country can boast the latest major winner (Y.E Yang at the '09 PGA Championship), the U.S Women's Open Champion (Eun-Hee Ji), the U.S Amateur Champion (Byeong-Hun An), the Asian Amateur Champion (Chang-Won Han) and numerous winners on the LPGA Tour.

The dominance of the U.S based LPGA Tour by Korean born golfers over the past decade has been well documented. The sheer volume of quality golfers being produced by this relatively small golfing nation has naturally caught the attention of the golf world.

Some of the questions being asked include:

What has caused this explosion of  Korean golfing success on the world stage in the past decade? Have the Koreans found a secret, a formula for consistently producing top quality players? And of course, what, if anything, can golfers from other nations learn from Korean golfers to help improve their own games?

To search for some answers to these questions we sat down for a chat with Bann Lynch Golf's Korean born coach John Kang and Korean professional golfers Hee Young Park (LPGA Tour) and Byong Min Cho (Korean PGA Tour) both of whom are currently in Melbourne to work with Bann Lynch Golf co-founder Steve Bann.

According to Kang, one of the main things that holds Koreans in good stead when it comes to golf is their work ethic and the way they approach improvement in the game. "Koreans love to play golf recreationally…" said Kang. "..However, if they decide that they want to really improve their golf game or actually make a career out of it, they treat it the same way they would treat going to school or doing a job. They are willing to put in as much time as it takes for them to be successful".

Bann Lynch Golf's Korean born coach John Kang
Bann Lynch Golf's Korean born coach John Kang

Kang went on to give us a bit of an insight into Korean culture. "School in Korea", he said, "…is not like school in Australia". "In Korea, kids go to school, then spend 3-5 hours outside of school hours every day taking tuitions, studying, taking extra courses". The reason? "Things are very competitive back there" said Kang. "There are limited opportunities available for kids to go to a good university and they do whatever they can to outperform the others". If Korean kids decide to take up golf seriously, they face similarly fierce competition from a very early age. There are competitions for children as young as five years old and the parents get involved in a big way.

Won Jun Lee is just 11 years old and plays off a 3 handicap
Won Jun Lee is just 11 years old and plays off a 3 handicap

Some parents from Western backgrounds might find the "Korean way" of parenting to be a bit overbearing and strict. However, according to Kang, "The stakes are very high so the parents feel they must help their children in every way possible. In Korea, the golfing community is relatively small, so everyone seems to know each other. In our culture, reputation is very important, so parents and children alike are motivated to make a name for themselves and be recognized as being successful".

These insights might help explain the dedication and work ethic that seems to be a common trait amongst most elite Korean golfers, however are there any other factors that work in their favor?

LPGA Player Hee Young Park with coach Steve Bann
LPGA Player Hee Young Park with coach Steve Bann

LPGA Tour star Hee Young Park, who is currently in town working with Bann Lynch Golf co-founder Steve Bann, shared some interesting thoughts on her own development as a golfer: "I did ballet as a kid and also learned how to play piano and violin at school. I really think ballet helped me with balance and body awareness, and playing music helped me develop a nice rhythm which I use in golf. Also, I loved to draw, and I think that has helped me with my visualization and creativity".

Bann Lynch Golf co-founder Steve Bann has great respect for Korean golfers whom he claims are "the hardest workers you'll see. It's scary really how hard they are willing to work. You're going to see some excellent players coming through because now they have access to top quality instruction and when mixed with hard work its a pretty potent mix!".

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