China orders closure of more than 100 golf courses as part of crackdown on links to wealthy elites

Since a fresh crackdown was launched in 2011, 111 of China's 683 golf courses nationwide were ordered shut.
Since a fresh crackdown was launched in 2011, 111 of China's 683 golf courses nationwide were ordered shut.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China has ordered the closure of a sixth of the country's golf courses since 2011, its top economic planner said, in an ongoing crackdown on a sport controversial for its links with wealthy elites.

China's ruling Communist Party has an ambivalent relationship with golf. Local authorities have profited from selling land for courses, but they are seen as venues for shady dealmaking between elites and politicians.

Central authorities ordered a nationwide freeze on new golf courses in 2004, which was largely ignored.

Since a fresh crackdown was launched in 2011, 111 of China's 683 golf courses nationwide were ordered shut, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement posted on its website Sunday.

Operators voluntarily closed an additional 11, it added.

Courses were taken to task for illegally using arable land or nature reserves, extracting groundwater in prohibited areas, and other violations.

The NDRC ordered an additional 18 courses to return illegally occupied land, as well as 47 others to stop further construction.

Golf courses are present in all of China's provincial-level regions except Tibet, according to the NDRC.

The country boasts world-class fairways and an emerging crop of young players, but expensive club memberships mean that only a tiny minority of Chinese have swung a golf club.

In 2015, the country's 88 million Communist party members were banned from joining golf clubs in a corruption crackdown which also targeted banquets and lavish gift-giving.