The Chinese government has begun cracking down on a ban on new courses that was first imposed in 2004, because of concerns about shrinking land and water resources. Five courses in the country were recently demolished or taken over by authorities for conversion to other purposes.
The Chinese government is cracking down on a ban that was imposed in 2004 that no new golf courses could be built in China, CBSSports.com reported, drawing from a Reuters report.
Five courses in China were recently demolished or taken over and converted into other entities by Chinese authorities, CBSSports.com reported. “The ban was imposed to protect China’s shrinking land and water resources in a country that is home to a fifth of the world’s population but which has just 7 percent of its water,” the website said. “The only place exempt is the southern resort island of Hainan.”
While that may make sense, CBSSports.com noted, it’s still unfortunate for a country that has been actively trying to grow the sport of golf for its younger populations.
Developers in the country have often skirted around the “no new golf courses” rule by labeling their projects something without the word “golf” in them, CBSSports.com added, but the government now seems to be catching on to that dodge.
Reuters reported that water consumption has become a real concern for the Chinese. “The crackdown could be more serious now because of China’s pollution crisis, developers said. One of the reasons for the 2004 ban was because the high use of fertilizer and pesticide to grow grass for golf courses was causing water pollution.”
Reuters quoted Ma Jun, a director at the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, a non-governmental organization, as saying that “the way many golf courses are built and managed has a negative impact on the environment.”
CBSSports.com noted that maybe the Chinese could learn from the recent redesign of Pinehurst No. 2, which will reduce water usage from 55 million gallons of water a year to just 15 million.
The Reuters article describes how the long fairways and manicured greens at an 18-hole golf course on the outskirts of Beijing are now bits of rubble and mounds of mud, after Chinese authorities sent in workers in March to dig up the course and tear down the clubhouse.
Two others courses across China were also demolished, Reuters reported, while another was turned into an eco-friendly park and a fifth converted into a tea plantation.
The government, which announced the demolitions last month, said its actions served as a warning and an attempt to educate “would-be” violators of the 2004 ban, Reuters reported. A few weeks later, the national auditor joined in, publicly shaming two big state-run enterprises for building golf courses.
“It’s a stepped-up campaign for sure,” said one Chinese developer, whose company built a course after the ban and who spoke on the condition that neither his name, his firm nor the course be identified.
Nevertheless, developers interviewed by Reuters expressed little concern, saying golf courses were in demand by local authorities who wanted the revenue from selling land while attracting well-heeled visitors to their regions.
Developers had built 639 golf courses across China up to the end of last year, Reuters reported, tripling the total since 2004, according to the website of Forward Management Group, a company based in the southern city of Shenzhen that offers a range of golf services in China.
To try to skirt the ban, developers and local officials call the projects sports training centers or tourist resorts in building applications, Reuters reported. Many also come complete with high-end villas.
Because of the large tracts of land needed for such projects, China’s cabinet must give approval, said lawyer Zhu Maoyuan, who has seen disguised applications.
“I have never seen developers and local governments use ‘golf course’ as a project name or for land-use purposes when seeking approval,” said Zhu, a partner at the Zhong Lun law firm in Beijing.
Many applications simply get the go-ahead from local authorities, said the Chinese developer.
The central government has promised to clamp down on illegal golf course construction before, but the demolition order against the five mainly little-known developers by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planning body, has been the first real sign of enforcement, Reuters reported.
Last week, China’s National Audit Office, in a wide-ranging report on state firms, said that China National Tobacco Corp had built one illegal golf course and China Metallurgical Group Corp had built two courses, constructed from 2007-2012.
In response, China Tobacco said in a statement it had ordered the closure of its course. China Metallurgical said it had begun the “asset disposal process” and had punished the officials responsible, Reuters reported.
The full Reuters article, “China Drives Home Message That Golf Courses Are Not the Fairway to Heaven,” can be read at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/06/28/uk-china-golf-idUKKBN0F30VZ20140628