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China gets tough on illegal golf courses

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-01-23 08:18

BEIJING -- The Chinese government has outlawed more than 100 golf courses around the country as it clamps down on illegal land and water use, authorities announced Sunday.

Of a total of 683 golf courses in China, 111 have been ordered to close since a national crackdown was launched in 2011, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner.

The golf courses were found to be illegally using large amounts of arable land or nature reserve areas, or extracting groundwater in prohibited areas, among other illicit behaviors.

In addition, 18 golf courses have been ordered to return and restore illegally occupied land, and 47 have been told to stop construction or business activities.

The central government has ordered rectification of the remaining 507 golf courses, of which 11 have been voluntarily closed by operators, the NDRC said.

China imposed a ban on the construction of new golf courses in 2004, when there were fewer than 200 golf courses in the country, to protect land and water resources. However, the number of golf courses continued to rise as the sport gained popularity, especially in business and official circles.

There are golf courses in all Chinese provincial-level regions except Tibet, according to the NDRC.

Han Liebao, an expert with Beijing Forestry University, said stricter anti-corruption rules, which list playing golf as an violation, helped cool the demand for golf in the past few years, putting business pressure on golf course operators.

The government will continue to ban new construction and illegal expansion of golf courses in the future, the NDRC said.

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