China confirms it has closed 111 golf courses

The government of China last week confirmed that it has closed 111 courses and imposed restrictions on another 65 over the last five years as part of an ongoing crackdown against its fledgling golf industry.

China’s Xinhua News Agency claimed the courses were ordered shut down because they were improperly using groundwater or built on either arable land or protected land within nature reserves.

Of the courses facing additional restrictions, 18 were made to return and restore land and another 47 told to shut down construction or business operations.

Although China officially banned the development of new courses in 2004, the number of courses in the country as of 2017 had more than tripled, from less than 200 to 683, in large part because regional and local governments seeking to increase development opportunities and to promote tourism often looked the other way when new courses were built. 

Even the 507 courses that escaped the shutdown edict are facing increased scrutiny. They all were ordered to carry out “rectification,” the Chinese planning agency said. Eleven of those reportedly then closed voluntarily.

Golf previously was the target of a 2015 government edict that prohibited members of the ruling Community Party from playing golf and banned officials from receiving free memberships and rounds. Party leaders claimed the game was only for the wealthy and violated party principles.

But Chinese officials haven’t always been so antagonistic toward golf. In the past, the government has sought to promote the sport by bringing in foreign coaches and encouraging Hall of Fame golfers like Greg Norman and Nick Faldo to get involved in instructional programs aimed at developing young Chinese golfers.

The modern Chinese golf industry was launched as part of economic reforms in the 1980s when leaders began encouraging foreign investment and tourism. One of the first courses built was a Jack Nicklaus design at Mission Hills Golf Resort in the 1990s. Since then, the Mission Hills complex in Shenzen has become the largest golf resort in the world, with 12 courses. 

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