You may have read about this a few weeks ago but if not, here’s a quick recap: Basically, the Chinese government has begun destroying new golf courses (some so new they haven’t even opened yet) to enforce a ban put in place to preserve water, land and curb pollution in the country. You can read the original Reuters story here.
While the particulars of this story are all very interesting, what the Reuters piece doesn’t mention is the overall impact this will have on the golf industry in general. Golf is in its infancy in China, but its growth had looked extremely promising. The country has just 639 courses (compared to more than 17,000 in the U.S.), but nearly 50% of them have been built in the last five years.
Now consider that this growth happened all while the country is under the aforementioned ban on building new courses (which dates back to 2004). Why would developers risk fines and other penalties to build golf courses under the guise of “Sports Training Centers” and “Tourist Resorts”? Because there is money to be made – lots of money.
Golf is beginning to catch-on with the more wealthy Chinese and they are willing to pay for it – from expensive memberships to high-end golf course properties, golf is a chance to affirm their status in the community – just like it was in the U.S. years ago before the middle-class also began playing. As courses spring up in new areas, it stands to reason new golfers would also be born. The game would grow exponentially and with it, the industry as a whole – equipment, apparel, etc. – an entire golf lifestyle niche would be carved-out in the country.
Think about what 10,000 golf courses in China would do to the industry as a whole. Heck, even 5,000 courses would be an unbelievable asset to the game. No one is denying that golf courses use water and take up space – but done properly (using effluent water and minimal chemicals), they not only benefit those that play but the communities they are built in as well.
But in China, it’s just not meant to be – at least for now anyway. Though developers had been flying under the radar for nearly a decade and building new courses anyway, it appears those days are over. The Chinese government publicly announced it had not only closed but destroyed five illegal golf courses in March as a warning to developers. With only a few hundred courses, golf in China is sure to remain a minor sport enjoyed by only a small percentage of wealthy.