It seems that China’s wealthy elite are going to have to pack away their woods and putters for the foreseeable future, with dozens of golf courses expected to be shut down by the government in the coming year, according to golf industry experts.
The closed courses were found in many provinces, with three of them in Beijing.
The statement did not specify a time frame during which these facilities were closed, but multiple ministries jointly issued a notice in July last year, asking for a crackdown on illegally built golf courses.
Monday's statement praised local governments for carrying out the orders.
Apart from issues including illegal land occupation, golf courses are widely criticized for massive water consumption and environmental damage due to broad use of pesticides and other chemicals.
Alongside luxury cars and oversized watches, golf has become a symbol of wealth and part of a modern lifestyle for many of China’s nouveau riche. The boom in golf’s popularity has led to hundreds of new courses being built alongside luxury mansions and other luxury facilities.
While there are no official figures for how many golf courses there are in the country, golf organization R&A estimates in a new report that there are 473. Author and golf expert Dan Washburn told me it could be as much as double that amount.
Now, under president Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption and party officials’ lavish lifestyles, the boom days seem be fading. In its report, R&A said that national government is now taking a more active enforcement stance and demolishing courses that were illegally built.
Washburn said he encountered more pessimism because there’s now more uncertainty in the industry than ever before. There were always crackdowns and a level of uncertainty, but the only constant was that the number of golf courses was rising.
“Now, it has come to a halt. In fact, there is a rumour that China plans to close as many as 100 courses the coming year,” he said.
“A lot of this has to do with the current business climate in China, and definitely has a lot to do with Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown.”
Chinese authorities closed down 66 golf courses earlier this week in acrackdown on courses built in contravention of rules designed to protect arable land and save water, Reuters said.
“Governments at all levels and relevant State Council organs have proactively carried out golf course rectification work and have achieved phased results,” the National Development and Reform Commission said in a brief statement.
China had less than 200 golf courses in 2004. In the same year, the central government announced a halt to new golf projects. However, the number of courses has nevertheless increased to more than 600 over the past decade because local governments viewed them as powerful tourist draws and conducive to urbanization.