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Premier says golf courses out of bounds
Updated: 2007-03-05 14:10
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao took a swipe at golf on Monday, saying the government would enforce a ban on golf course development on agricultural land.

Wen singled out golf courses in a speech to the national legislature's annual opening session, saying they wasted land that should be kept for growing crops. The session sets out the government's priorities for the upcoming year.

China's central government has attempted to ban golf course development on agricultural land, but orders have often been ignored.

"We will resolutely control the amount of land used for construction ... in particular, land will not be allowed to be used to build individual houses, golf courses and new training centers for party and government organs," Wen said.

The brief mention of golf in a speech mainly devoted to education and health care reform underscores the sport's elitist image in China.

Despite the government's disapproval, the country holds a half-dozen major tournaments annually that draw top players including No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods.

Late last year, one of China's most prominent universities - Peking University - shelved plans to build a practice green after widespread criticism.

The university and several other Chinese schools have been promoting golf lessons for business students to prepare them for a commercial world where deals are often made on the links.

In a country of 1.3 billion, China has only 300,000 golfers who play at least once a week. By comparison, the United States has an estimated 37 million golfers among a population of 300 million.