Here at Northampton Valley Country Club, we love providing the opportunity to use our Bucks County golf course to all kinds of people. However, while people might take a sport like golf for granted in the US, others throughout the world aren’t always afforded such freedom in their leisure activities. Before enjoying golf in Bucks County, take a minute to read about China, where people weren’t even allowed to play golf until very recently.
Believe it or not, China now has one of the fastest growing golf industries in the world. With much of the growth focused on the island province of Hainan, the scope of the golf industry increases 25 to 30% each year. Many professional tournaments are now held in China, with 26 occurring in 2007. The 2004 BMW Asian Open in 2004, the Volvo China Open in 2006, and the HSBC Champions in 2006 have gained China a great deal of attention in the golf world. The rapid rise of China’s golf industry has brought overseas investors and golfers to the country from South Korea, Australia, Japan, and others.
As early as 1000 AD, the Chinese played chuiwan, a game somewhat similar to golf played with a stick and ball. The game is depicted in ancient paintings. However, the rise of the communist party in China saw a complete ban on golf that lasted until the mid-1980s. China’s communist rulers viewed the sport as too bourgeois. Ironically, now that it is permitted the sport has become a privilege for China’s elite, with the cost of an 18-hole game in Shanghai averaging RMB800 (US$123). Under .03% of Chinese play golf, as opposed to 8% of Americans.
China’s first golf course, the Chung Shan Hot Springs in Zhongshan, was constructed in 1984. In 1995, China hosted the Golf World Cup at Mission Hills Shenzhen in Guangdong, the largest golf complex in the world. Construction on Mission Hills Haikou complex has been ongoing since 2006, and it is slated to become the second largest at 80 km2, or 1.5 times larger than Manhattan.
In fact, even after China’s 2007 National People’s Congress placed a ban on new golf courses, the island of Hainan, China’s southernmost province, remained exempt from the rule. Most of the expansion of China’s golf industry has occurred on Hainan. However, the ban is not strongly enforced in many areas because local governments earn a lot of money from land sales. Also, because the golf boom has continued so fervently, it is almost impossible for China’s central government to keep tabs on all the new constructions.