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Golf in China


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A lot of our golf equipment is made in China, but what of golf in China? Official reports are very ambiguous - golf is potentially and has been actually expanding, yet it's disapproved of by the government. Is there some kind of double standard going on? It certainly seems to be very expensive, and a lot of members of the top courses are non-Chinese.

"Despite a ban in 2004 that limits the number of golf courses in China due to environmental impact concerns, the number has more than tripled since 2004. At that time, only 170 courses existed. By 2009 there were almost 600.[6] Around 2008, growth rate of the golf industry is 25 to 30 percent per year.[5] In 2011, the rate is moderated by a much larger base, decreased to 7.5% (45 New courses).[1]

At the 2007 National People's Congress, acknowledging that the construction of new golf courses is not only a waste of public money, but also an illegal use of space, Premier Wen Jiabao said to the Congress that contracts in building new golf courses should be highly discouraged. The government currently imposes a 24 percent tax on golf clubs.[5] In October 2015, the Chinese Communist Party banned all its members from joining golf clubs among other displays of extravagance as part of China's anti-corruption campaign."

Does anybody know what's actually going on in China?

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A lot of our golf equipment is made in China, but what of golf in China? Official reports are very ambiguous - golf is potentially and has been actually expanding, yet it's disapproved of by the government. Is there some kind of double standard going on? It certainly seems to be very expensive, and a lot of members of the top courses are non-Chinese.

 

"Despite a ban in 2004 that limits the number of golf courses in China due to environmental impact concerns, the number has more than tripled since 2004. At that time, only 170 courses existed. By 2009 there were almost 600.[6] Around 2008, growth rate of the golf industry is 25 to 30 percent per year.[5] In 2011, the rate is moderated by a much larger base, decreased to 7.5% (45 New courses).[1]

At the 2007 National People's Congress, acknowledging that the construction of new golf courses is not only a waste of public money, but also an illegal use of space, Premier Wen Jiabao said to the Congress that contracts in building new golf courses should be highly discouraged. The government currently imposes a 24 percent tax on golf clubs.[5] In October 2015, the Chinese Communist Party banned all its members from joining golf clubs among other displays of extravagance as part of China's anti-corruption campaign."

 

Does anybody know what's actually going on in China?

Check out The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream by Dan Washburn. He's probably the leading expert or at least the leading journalist on the subject. The book came out maybe 2 years ago, but should give you a pretty good understanding of the history and future of golf in China.

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A lot of our golf equipment is made in China, but what of golf in China? Official reports are very ambiguous - golf is potentially and has been actually expanding, yet it's disapproved of by the government. Is there some kind of double standard going on? It certainly seems to be very expensive, and a lot of members of the top courses are non-Chinese.

 

"Despite a ban in 2004 that limits the number of golf courses in China due to environmental impact concerns, the number has more than tripled since 2004. At that time, only 170 courses existed. By 2009 there were almost 600.[6] Around 2008, growth rate of the golf industry is 25 to 30 percent per year.[5] In 2011, the rate is moderated by a much larger base, decreased to 7.5% (45 New courses).[1]

At the 2007 National People's Congress, acknowledging that the construction of new golf courses is not only a waste of public money, but also an illegal use of space, Premier Wen Jiabao said to the Congress that contracts in building new golf courses should be highly discouraged. The government currently imposes a 24 percent tax on golf clubs.[5] In October 2015, the Chinese Communist Party banned all its members from joining golf clubs among other displays of extravagance as part of China's anti-corruption campaign."

 

Does anybody know what's actually going on in China?

Check out The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream by Dan Washburn. He's probably the leading expert or at least the leading journalist on the subject. The book came out maybe 2 years ago, but should give you a pretty good understanding of the history and future of golf in China.

 

Can you give the Cliff Notes version?

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I've visited and played golf in China. All I can say from my experience is that their culture is very different from ours. Putting western culture expectations on them, as it pertains to golf, would be very ethnocentric.

 

For example, I saw even the nicest residences would hang dry the laundry outside. I was told this was to conserve energy and protect the environment. But when it came to the river I saw, they polluted that sucker as much as they wanted. To me, that's complete hypocritical behavior, but to them, it's the norm.

 

Golf to them is kinda the same way.

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I can only speak from experience after living, working and golfing in China. It is exceptionally expensive (even the driving range!) and reserved for the richest of the rich, with most young talent coming from the exceptionally wealthy.

 

On TV when tournaments are hosted in China they make out that they are growing the game etc.etc....BS. In reality they banned the construction of new courses and banned any Government / state employees from playing (anti corruption) and have been demolishing courses which didn't have the correct planning permission. I believe the issue may lie with lack of fresh water (China has 20% of the people and 7% of the worlds fresh water) and many courses being built near lakes / reservoirs which are poisoned with fertiliser run off.

 

I played Mission Hills (with a member) and it was +300 USD on a weekend, however the service, organisation and overall experience was terrible. I doubt things will improve any time soon.

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Titleist U500 - Tensei Pro 100X

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In reality they banned the construction of new courses and banned any Government / state employees from playing (anti corruption) and have been demolishing courses which didn't have the correct planning permission. I believe the issue may lie with lack of fresh water (China has 20% of the people and 7% of the worlds fresh water) and many courses being built near lakes / reservoirs which are poisoned with fertiliser run off.

 

 

That kind of data makes golf courses an environmental problem - no doubt. I see that - and it's fair enough. Chinese are pretty pragmatic people.

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Why do they take a stance against golf but there's a growing demand amongst the wealthy for luxury goods and lifestyle? Is it the government's attempt to maintain control over the increasingly capitalist lifestyles of the wealthy?

 

I am genuinely curious to know what are the environmental impacts of a golf course. Is fertiliser residue actually a serious issue? Is this something that affects courses worldwide? I know fertilisers contain heavy metals etc but I always thought golf courses were healthy and provided natural habitat for wildlife etc. Anyway big cities in China would have to be some of the most polluted places on Earth. The amount of heavy metals in the air is frightening. This is the cost of our consumer-oriented lifestyle in the West. They have entire villages who's income comes from melting down consumer electronics and reclaiming raw materials, so these villages are basically toxic waste dumps because all the heavy metals and rare earth materials from our TVs and iPhones leaches into the soil and water table.

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Why do they take a stance against golf but there's a growing demand amongst the wealthy for luxury goods and lifestyle? Is it the government's attempt to maintain control over the increasingly capitalist lifestyles of the wealthy?

 

I am genuinely curious to know what are the environmental impacts of a golf course. Is fertiliser residue actually a serious issue? Is this something that affects courses worldwide? I know fertilisers contain heavy metals etc but I always thought golf courses were healthy and provided natural habitat for wildlife etc. Anyway big cities in China would have to be some of the most polluted places on Earth. The amount of heavy metals in the air is frightening. This is the cost of our consumer-oriented lifestyle in the West. They have entire villages who's income comes from melting down consumer electronics and reclaiming raw materials, so these villages are basically toxic waste dumps because all the heavy metals and rare earth materials from our TVs and iPhones leaches into the soil and water table.

 

I don't think a golf course is particularly environmentally "healthy" - there's fertilizer, water use, and fossil fuels burned by mowers and other equipment.

Building a regular park is a much better way to create urban green space.

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Why do they take a stance against golf but there's a growing demand amongst the wealthy for luxury goods and lifestyle? Is it the government's attempt to maintain control over the increasingly capitalist lifestyles of the wealthy?

 

I am genuinely curious to know what are the environmental impacts of a golf course. Is fertiliser residue actually a serious issue? Is this something that affects courses worldwide? I know fertilisers contain heavy metals etc but I always thought golf courses were healthy and provided natural habitat for wildlife etc. Anyway big cities in China would have to be some of the most polluted places on Earth. The amount of heavy metals in the air is frightening. This is the cost of our consumer-oriented lifestyle in the West. They have entire villages who's income comes from melting down consumer electronics and reclaiming raw materials, so these villages are basically toxic waste dumps because all the heavy metals and rare earth materials from our TVs and iPhones leaches into the soil and water table.

 

Fertiliser and pesticide run off is certainly an issue, worldwide as far as I know. If I remember they did crack down on courses for both water management and lack of planning, with some courses just being left to ruin.

 

When I was in China the Government seemed to take the stance it was a rich, capitalist pastime potentially associated with corruption (memberships given to officials) and the way the Japanese do business.

PXG 0211 9 deg- Tensei Pro White 60 TX
Callaway Epic Flash 15 deg - Tensei Pro Blue 70 TX
Titleist U500 - Tensei Pro 100X

Callaway Apex Pro 19 (4-PW) - Project x 6.5
Vokey SM7 50, 54, 58 DGS300
2-ball triple track

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Slime...

 

That's a topic that gets no real mention within the community, here in the us at least. Information exists, just no interest in hearing it.

 

But courses are heavily dependent upon commercial chemicals. Fungal and pest diseases are a major issue, and require a regiment of rotating chemicals, alomg w the use of fertilizers. All of these chems leach into our water systems, and many cant be filtered for. A lot of the chems used (fungicides and pesticides in particular), are known carcinogens and/or lead to birth defects in rats. All of these chems have basically the least amount of research to prove they are safe enough to use, and never study the extended consequences nor the cumulative effects of the mixed exposures by the multitude of chems. Heavy metals is likely a partial concern, but not the biggest... Its the fungicides and pesticides that are of particular concern, and all of those need multiple applications throughout the year. We spend multiple billions on such chems in the us alone. The only reason a course wouldnt use the chems, is if they didnt have the money to buy them.

 

There is a movement on golf course design for a clean(er) model, that uses naturally existing landscapes and vegitation, and minimizing fertilizers and pesticides and fungicides. But these would be the super small minority of courses in existence, and still the mjnority for new builds. And you'd be hitting off of patchy grass that is brownish.

 

The whole expectation we have of golf involves a pristinely manicured and pefectly lush and green utopia... That doesnt exist in nature. So, we use bulldozers and chemicals and pipe in the water. Nothing green about any of it. And quite frankly, you dont want to be around the course whenever they apply chems... Just touching ur ball will expose u to the chems, meaning they will pass through your skin and into your blood supply. Is it safe? Cumulatively? Over time? We dont test for that, so what would be a logical guess?

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The stance has softened a little recently. Some courses were tranformed into park or farm areas, but that's stopped. Government workers are not allowed to be hosted at golf courses any more. Most courses are in more rural areas, so the fact that they created jobs forced the government to overlook the moratorium on contruction.Courses are being built again, with the hope that they can gain a license in the future.

 

I was just at a golf course in China with two Jack Nicklaus courses. Sure the customers are all wealthy and there were even a couple of private jets at the airport serving the area. but they were in perfect condition. You could hold a US Open there tomorrow.

 

In Japan, golf can no longer be deducted by a business, so that had a huge effect on the business, in addition to the stockmarket bubble burst around 1990.

 

The same elimination of tax deductions and banning government employees from accepting golf expenses is about to happen in South Korea. It will impact the courses there. The result in Japan was a flurry of restructuring, cost reductions and price reductions so more people down the food chain could afford to play golf.

 

Golf is not going to have any explosive growth in Asia. It does have the potential for some growth, which is more than in the US or Europe.

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Pokerfish (and others above),

 

Thanks for your replies. It's pretty alarming to think about it, and does provide some context for China not wanting to add unnecessary chemicals to the environment. Industry/food crops are obviously considered in a different realm.

 

Actually once I played a round and they were applying fertiliser to the greens during the round. My ball was covered with salty chemicals after every hole. I was really annoyed actually.

 

Anyway there's certainly a good argument for getting back to the original mindset of golf and playing the natural environment as is.

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I play in China a couple times a year (live in HK) and although courses are very nice, there is a lack community feel to many of them. Mission Hills is amazing, but is more of a golf factory than a true golf club. A membership will allow you access but the place is so massive you really don't get to meet other members.

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