China says 66 golf courses shut in renewed crackdown

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese authorities have closed 66 golf courses in a renewed crackdown on courses built in contravention of rules designed to protect arable land and save water, China's top economic planning body said on Monday.

The central government last year ordered the demolition of courses built by five mainly little-known developers, the first real sign of enforcement of a 2004 ban.

The ban was imposed to protect China's shrinking land and water resources in a country home to a fifth of the world's population but which has just 7 per cent of its water.

Another reason was because the high use of fertiliser and pesticide to grow grass for golf courses was causing water pollution. "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. "At present, all levels of government have already banned the building of a series of illegal golf courses, and the rectification work has seen initial success," it added.

Three of the courses it named in its list of the 66 shut were in Beijing, with the others spread out across the country, including in the barren inland region of Ningxia.

The only part of China supposed to be exempt from the ban is the southern resort island of Hainan, though the list included three courses there.

Golf has come a long way in China since it was banned as a bourgeois excess by late leader Mao Zedong, with many wealthy Chinese seeing it as a way to affirm their status.

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