HONG KONG • Sixty golf courses in China have closed since the Communist Party banned its members from joining in October last year.
At least 50 more courses are losing money and are in danger of being shut down, the Sunday Morning Post newspaper quoted an expert as saying in a report yesterday.
The course closures and the threat of yet more shutdowns came about due to the party's moratorium on building new courses, and banning officials from playing, amid a crackdown by Chinese President Xi Jinping on temptations that could lead officials towards corruption, said Mr Aylwin Tai, an expert on the game in China.
"The government is not encouraging the game, so it's a challenging time for all whose focus is golf," said Mr Tai, according to the newspaper. The Hong Kong native is also president of the Club Managers Association of China.
"The government is very careful; they're not showing support and are seeing how the market reacts," Mr Tai added.
The government is not encouraging the game, so it's a challenging time for all whose focus is golf.
MR AYLWIN TAI, an expert on the game in China
Playing golf in China today is being portrayed by its government as a vice, and the game is lumped together with drugs, gambling, prostitution, ill-gotten wealth and conspicuous consumption, Mr Tai said.
China is in the midst of a massive crackdown on corruption, overseen by Mr Xi, with the government rebuffing criticisms that the campaign is more about an internal power play than actually tackling graft.
"The market, it would appear, is not reacting all that positively, at least when it comes to the business of running golf clubs," said Mr Tai, speaking to the newspaper.
"The tax on golf is high, water (for irrigation) is expensive, as are labour costs," he added.
Mr Tai said although golf has been elevated to an Olympic sport, the move has had a negligible effect on membership sales in China.
"There could be another 50 or 60 courses that close in the next year, not by the government but because, for many clubs, golf isn't a profitable business," he told the Sunday Morning Post, the weekend edition of the South China Morning Post.
Mr Tai managed Chung Shan Hot Spring in Guangdong when it opened in 1984. His company Richtone Worldwide has organised 15 editions of the Volvo China Open.
Even the victory by China's star player Li Haotong at that competition last month is unlikely to help the sport.
"It was a great performance but can the public relate to Li Haotong? If the public can't relate, then the impact of his win will be limited to the second generation of rich Chinese who play golf," he said.