(October 6, 2011) Golf, the “green opium”, is getting more and more popular in China as a symbol of wealth. New courses continue to be built, despite an official ban, exacerbating China’s urban water shortages.
Golf mania developing in China
With more and more Chinese people, including successful businessmen, chief executive officers and white-collar workers, developing a strong interest in golf, which is sometimes called a ‘battle of wits and courage’, the sport is becoming a prosperous industry in China. Shen Jingting reports.
Golf is a “green opium”, joked Li Xiaoming, a 52-year-old Beijing businessman who played the sport almost every day in the year that he was most fanatical about it.
Li has been hitting the links for more than 16 years. He was the champion of the Amateur Golf Tournament in China and participated in the China Open, a men’s golf tournament that has been held annually in China since 1995.
“But I was not interested in going to golf courses at all at the very beginning because I regarded it as a game for the old,” Li said.
However, his friend successfully persuaded him to have a try. They went to a golf course in Hainan province and, all of a sudden, Li found himself surprised and delighted by the course’s beautiful natural scenery.
“I was out of breath after I played nine holes and had to sit under a tree for a rest,” Li said. Golf is not only a sport that trains people’s bodies, but it is also a complicated mental exercise. “The amazing thing about golf is that it’s like participating in a psychological war with your rivals. It’s a battle of wits and courage.”
Li spends 100,000 yuan ($15,640) a year playing golf and lost 10 kilograms during the past decade. “Although I am in my 50s, I feel no difference in terms of health from when I was young,” the tanned man said.
There are a growing number of Chinese people that have developed a strong interest in golf. In Beijing there are about 65 golf courses. The capital city has seen a trend developing as increasing numbers of people go to golf clubs for both the sport and as a social activity.
The average price for playing 18 holes in Beijing is between 600 and 800 yuan but most golf clubs only allow their members to play.
The membership fee, usually between 100,000 yuan and 1.7 million yuan, tends to keep the general public away.
But even at such high prices, memberships are still eagerly sought. Bayhood No 9 Golf Club, one of the most luxurious clubs in Beijing, previously charged 1.08 million yuan for membership. It is now no longer open to new members because it risks being oversubscribed.
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