FT: Chinese players battle political attacks against ‘green opium’

Mark Wembridge writes in the The Financial Times:

“Building golf courses may be illegal in China, but no other country has come close to building more than China over the past decade,” says Dan Washburn, author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream.

“This is a sport that encapsulates China itself. It’s a barometer of the Chinese economy.”

“No public official in China should be able to afford membership of an exclusive golf club in China,” says Washburn.

Today, there are estimated to be anywhere between 600 and 1,000 courses across the country.

“For the golf industry in China, no one really knows what the rules are. It’s a highly politicised landscape, a legal grey area.

“Beijing can set the rules, but how they are interpreted by local officials is a different matter,” notes Washburn.

“When building a golf course, don’t call it a golf course. Call it a sports space, a green space. The Chinese saying ‘The mountains are high and the emperor is far away’ is apt here.”

Such development has had a detrimental effect on farmers, many of whom were strong-armed into selling their land, says Washburn.