My contribution to The New York Times‘ new “Sporting” column about my time chasing the bizarre story of golf in China: It was a foggy day in Chongqing, a metropolis in southwest China, and the driving range was almost empty. Out beyond the 250-yard marker, a cluster of new high-rise apartment buildings was barely visible, […]
Catherine Kovach lumps me in with some pretty amazing company in Bustle: Of course, since this is reality, of course it’s possible for people who love sports and books at the same time. In fact, some stories about the sports industry can be even more complicated and fascinating than Game of Thrones (which is saying […]
Tim Marcin writes in the International Business Times: “The question has always been: Will Olympic success in golf equal a golf boom in China?” said Dan Washburn, author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream.” “It was and remains a down time for the golf industry in China, but at the same time […]
Larry Ong writes for Epoch Times: Dan Washburn, the leading authority on golf in China and author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream,” told the Washington Post: “As is common in China, the regulation’s language does seem vague, perhaps purposefully so.” “But the simple fact remains: No Chinese government official should be […]
Adam Taylor writes in The Washington Post: Dan Washburn, perhaps the foremost Western expert on golf in China and author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream,” says that the idea that golf has been made legal is a misinterpretation of the previous guidelines: Golf was never actually illegal in China for either […]
Josh Horowitz writes in Quartz: A state-linked school’s embrace of the sport shouldn’t bee seen as a sign China’s government is softening Dan Washburn, author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream told Quartz. “I certainly don’t think this hints to any kind of change in Beijing’s official stance toward golf. Just chalk […]
Tim Marcin writes in the International Business Times: China has stepped up efforts in 2015 to close the gap between the technical laws of the land and reality. “China has always seemed to be very good about compartmentalizing its attitudes toward golf,” Washburn said. “You can see this big crackdown on golf on the one […]
Listen to my interview with PRI on China’s ongoing crackdown on golf: Yes. Golf. That seemingly most Western of sports is a unique prism on modern China. Many Chinese want to play, but the Communist Party doesn’t like the game. And today, Communist Party officials officially barred its 88 million members from belonging to a […]
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 […]
Rachel Axon writes in an enterprise piece for USA Today: Despite restrictions imposed by the government and the sport holding virtually no space in the culture of China’s more than 1.3 billion population, golf is enjoying tremendous growth in China. Course construction has been booming for a decade even as a moratorium was established — […]
Alyssa Abkowitz writes in a Wall Street Journal front-page story: Lately, President Xi Jinping’s austerity campaign has sent the sport into a sand trap: More than 60 courses have been closed and several Communist Party officials are under investigation for hitting the links. Since the Communist Revolution, when Chairman Mao Zedong declared golf “too […]
Zach Bergson writes for VICE: As economic development spread rapidly in the country at the turn of the century, local and provincial governments—who own a significant portion of the nation’s land—saw golf as a way to increase their tax bases and make money, according to Dan Washburn, author of The Forbidden Game. They sold their […]
Harold Thibault writes in The Guardian: The sport is getting a bad reputation in other ways. To be maintained properly, golf courses have to be watered regularly – this, at a time when northern China is suffering from chronic water shortages. And building new ones means expropriating farmland, often under highly dubious circumstances – this […]
Alma Lopez Figueiras writes in El Mundo: Para Dan Washburn, que ha documentado este controvertido boom en su libro ‘El juego prohibido: golf y sueño chino’, el golf no sólo refleja el rápido crecimiento económico de China en las últimas tres décadas, sino que también revela las tensiones que enfrenta el país, particularmente la desigualdad […]
Harold Thibault writes in Le Monde: Ce sport « cumule » d’autres caractéristiques gênantes. L’entretien des parcours nécessite un fort arrosage alors que le nord de la Chine souffre d’un manque d’eau chronique ; leur construction se fait au prix d’expropriations de paysans dans des conditions souvent troubles. Le tout alors que le pays le […]
Austin Ramzy writes: HONG KONG — President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on vice and corruption in China has gone after drugs, gambling, prostitution, ill-gotten wealth and overflowing banquet tables. Now it has turned to a less obvious target: golf. In a flurry of recent reports, state-run news outlets have depicted the sport as yet another […]
BBC’s Roger Hearing talks to Dan Washburn, author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, about China’s complicated relationship with golf. This segment aired on April 9, 2015.
James Corrigan writes in The Telegraph: The warning signs have been there for more than a decade. In 2004, the national government banned the building of new courses because of environmental concerns. It proved a bit like the High Court banning D H Lawrence. In the next 10 years, the number of courses grew from 200 […]
Climbing Sherpas, the Nepalese men who risk their lives to help visitors climb Mt. Everest. A crackdown on golf in China. Travis Hamonic sharing his grief to help children. Listen to Jeremy’s April 10, 2015, episode here. You can download the show from that page, as well.
There are no Chinese golfers participating in The Masters this week, and perhaps that is fitting. It’s already been a rough spring for “the rich man’s game” in China. On March 30, Chinese authorities announced the closure of 66 “illegal” golf courses — roughly 10% of all courses in the country — in an […]
Calum MacLeod writes: “China is full of many contradictions,” said Dan Washburn, an analyst and author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream. “You never know what to expect in China, especially when related to golf. It’s a difficult place to try to figure out.” The Communist Party banned golf and ripped […]
Johan Nylander focuses heavily on The Forbidden Game in his piece for Forbes: So how can something be booming and illegal at the same time? “Golf is a politically taboo topic and tightly linked to corruption,” Dan Washburn said during a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. “No golf course is […]
I made an oh-so-current Yakov Smirnoff reference on Twitter — and it got picked up by the AFP: Government officials keen on joining golf clubs often do so under false names, wary of being perceived as corrupt or out of touch, according to Dan Washburn, author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream”. Washburn […]
You’ll need to read this Washington Post story by Adam Taylor until the very end for the Forbidden Game reference. Or just read the money quote here: Given that some experts see Xi’s corruption campaign as selective and politically motivated, it’ll be worth watching for whether authorities clamp down fully on China’s golfing world. “It […]
From Pete Madden: There have been periodic crackdowns in the past, but Dan Washburn, managing editor of the Asia Society and the author of a book about golf in China called The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, said that course construction in China has come to an almost complete halt as the industry […]
From the March 27, 2015, story by Bernice Chan: For someone who has written a book about golf, it may come as a surprise to learn that Dan Washburn is rarely one to hit the greens. That’s because Washburn is not so much a golfer as an observer of how the game has exploded in […]
While in Seoul last month, I was interviewed by the Maeil Business Newspaper, the primary daily business paper in South Korea. You can read the story here. I am told it’s good — has to be better than that photo.
Cliff Schrock writes: The book shows how parallels between golf in China and the U.S. can be startling, especially with the pursuit of land, environmental bickering, the mix of rich/poor with both players and workers, the need for irrigation and watering, and the contradictions between what the national government says and how the local governments […]
Maggie Galehouse writes: Golf and the complex world around it offer “a unique window into today’s China,” writes Dan Washburn, in his captivating book, “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream.” The emergence and growth of golf in the world’s most populated country – some 1.35 billion people – is “a barometer for … […]
Last month, NPR’s Bill Littlefield talked to me about The Forbidden Game and China’s complex relationship with golf for his “Only a Game” broadcast. You can listen to it here: Bill also wrote some thoughts on the book. Here’s a taste: Washburn focuses on the stories of three especially intriguing characters associated with the rise […]
“Nice list to make.” That was the subject line from an email I received shortly after The Financial Times came out with its list of the Best Books of 2014. That’s an understatement. So amazingly honored to be included.
Big thanks to Austin L. Dean for including The Forbidden Game on the Los Angeles Review of Books list of last-minute holiday gift ideas. Just a few shopping days left!
TimeOut Shanghai said its year-end list of the best China books “taught us something remarkable about how China is changing in 2014.” Honored to be included on the list, which also featured works by Evan Osnos, Howard French, Amy Tan, and others.
While in Beijing recently, I sat down with Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn to record an episode of their popular Sinica podcast. You can listen to it below, or read more at ChinaFile.
Last week, The Telegraph reported on the latest crackdown on corruption and golf in China. From Tom Phillips’ story: Since coming to power in late 2012, president Xi has launched high-profile campaigns to rein in the behaviour of wasteful and corrupt civil servants whose antics, he believes, could ultimately bring the Party down. Those […]
Below, listen to Dan Washburn discuss The Forbidden Game in an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the Chicago Club on Sept. 26, 2014. More details at the Chicago Council website.
Charlotte Middlehurst writes: Energetic, poignant and revealing, Washburn’s account expertly articulates how the ‘rich man’s game’ has become an instrumental force in realising the much vaunted Chinese dream. Read the entire review at TimeOut Shanghai.
Tom Carter writes: Washburn is not only a gifted writer, cleverly sketching out interconnected, character-driven portraits, but an empathetic reporter. These stories have heart, and it is clear from the first passage that the author has taken a deeply personal interest in the people he is profiling. The Forbidden Game is China writing at its […]
Tom Bedell writes: If it sounds like a dour subject, Washburn has managed to turn it into a ripping good yarn by spotlighting three main characters: Zhou Xunshu, struggling to succeed as that rarest of entities, a Chinese tour golf professional; Martin Moore, a shaper from Florida who becomes the go-to man to construct a […]
A lovely review from Maura Elizabeth Cunningham: Yet as Dan Washburn writes in his compelling new book, The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, golf “offers a unique window into today’s China,” a country of paradoxes perhaps best exemplified by the fact that although construction of new golf courses has been banned in China […]
LOS ANGELES, September 17 — Thanks to Asia Society Southern California and the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California for setting up a great event. Some photos have been uploaded here.
Above, please find highlight clips from my first Forbidden Game book event, held July 24, 2014, at my hometown library in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Moderator for the evening was Sam Bidleman, my high school journalism teacher. It was an amazing, and meaningful, way to kick off my book “tour.”
Goodreads Book Giveaway The Forbidden Game by Dan Washburn Giveaway ends September 23, 2014. See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter to win
Recorded Thursday, September 4, 2014, at Asia Society in New York. Watch the complete program: Or a highlight, entitled ‘The Other Side of the Chinese Dream’:
In this day and age, we’ve come to expect to see images of U.S. presidents gracing gossip websites and the covers of tabloid newspapers. But rarely, as it was recently, is golf at the heart of the discussion. After breaking briefly from a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to publicly address the savage beheading of […]
Glenda Korporaal writes: An award-winning American reporter who lived in China for 10 years, Washburn uses stories about these people involved in the booming golf business to provide an insight into the China dream that has had a tectonic impact on the world, and the Australian economy in particular. Anyone trying to come to grips […]
In advance of my New York book event tomorrow at Asia Society, my colleagues at ChinaFile put together a nice little 30-second teaser video, which is embedded above. If the video piques your interest, and you happen to be in the New York area, stop by 725 Park Avenue at 6:30 pm on Thursday, September […]
From the Q&A with New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy: What were your first interactions with golf like in China? Did you play much while you lived in Shanghai? I actually don’t golf, so it’s a good thing my book isn’t a how-to. My first interactions with the game in China were as a reporter. […]
Washburn has a rich topic, and he does it justice. This is a China book, not a golf book, and it’s a very good one. Read the review by Aelred Doyle below (click the image for a larger version), or download the entire August 2014 issue at That’s Shanghai.
From the Q&A with Justin McDonnell: How did Forbidden Game come to fruition? I guess you could say it’s been nearly a decade in the making. Not long after I started writing about the topic, I realized the story of golf in China is much bigger than golf itself. Ever since golf reemerged in China […]
Tom Lavoie writes: Washburn’s extensive research and his breezy, reporter’s style make this insightful book both educational and delightful. Read the entire review at Shelf Awareness.
Despite Beijing’s golf course moratorium, some big developers have continued to show a remarkable ability to manage and massage guanxi with local government officials. Without the right connections, it would never have been possible to operate on the grand scale needed to build a golf resort. And managing and massaging guanxi was often a very […]
Listen to BBC’s Paul Henley talk to Dan Washburn below. This interview originally ran on June 21, 2014, as part of BBC World Service’s Weekend show.
The $40 million Chinese golf course (that’s now underwater) It’s been 10 years since the Chinese government made building new golf courses illegal. And, over the course of those 10 years, no country has built more golf courses than China. The reason local officials are willing to skirt Beijing’s ban is simple: money. When land-hungry […]
In 1995, Zhou Xunshu dropped out of security guard school in the province of Guizhou and made his way south to Guangdong, China’s manufacturing heartland. With almost no money in his pocket, he was following the well-worn tracks of millions of young migrant workers hoping to escape rural poverty. He got a job working as […]
I’ve got a column in the July 7, 2014, issue of Golf World magazine. It’s called “China’s Quandary: Big Country Has a Small, Complicated Interest in the Game,” and unfortunately it’s not available online. You can, however, buy a digital edition on Google Play’s Newsstand for 99 cents.
Jonathan Mirsky writes: There are two books here. One is about the intricacies and arcana of golf — irons, niblicks, drivers, pars, cuts, and so on. If you are a golf maven, go for it. But the other book is on a wholly different matter: the details and extent of local and high-level Chinese corruption […]
Edward Chancellor writes: Attempts to explain China’s recent history often fall back on statistics showing the country’s breakneck economic growth: how many tons of steel have been produced, how many miles of high-speed rail constructed. The trouble with this approach is that the figures are mind-numbingly large and often dubious, while the social context is […]
Last week I sat down with Jessica Marksbury in Golf.com’s New York studio to talk about The Forbidden Game and China’s complicated relationship with golf. Watch above, or click here. I was also quoted in a related story, “China’s recent golf course crackdown masks staggering pace of construction.”
The following excerpt comes from Dan Washburn’s new book “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream,” which follows the lives of three men caught up in China’s bizarre — and, in some cases, illegal — golf scene. The passage below focuses on Zhou Xunshu, whose inspiring underdog story takes him from peasant farmer to […]
Here’s a snippet of my chat with The Wall Street Journal’s Alyssa Abkowitz: THERE’S A BAN ON GOLF COURSE DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA AND YET GOLF IS BOOMING. HOW DOES THAT WORK? There’s a [Chinese] saying I have in the book, “the mountain is high but the emperor is far away.” That sums up the disconnect […]
Had a nice talk with Marketplace‘s David Gura last week. You can listen to part of it above, or at their website.
For Mr Washburn golf is symbolic not only of China’s economic rise but also of “the less glamorous realities of a nation’s awkward and arduous evolution from developing to developed: corruption, environmental neglect, disputes over rural land rights and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor”. He tackles these great themes indirectly, by interweaving the […]
“You need to hide,” the villager whispered urgently. “Government officials have arrived.” I was whisked away through a maze of shanties, trees and rubble, and finally placed inside a crudely-made shed where my only companions were discarded coconut husks and a rooster. Through a gap in the wall I spotted men wearing eyeglasses and white […]
Simon Kuper writes: The Forbidden Game uses golf – a game that most in the country probably still know nothing about – to gain a rare insight into ordinary Chinese lives. Washburn, the managing editor of the Asia Society in the US, was a reporter in China when he began covering golf tournaments. A Stakhanovite […]
Had a nice chat with Sean Moncrieff of Ireland’s NewsTalk radio station not long ago. Listen above or here.
Recently had a nice chat with Kyle Brown of Golf Course Industry magazine. Listen to it above on on their site.
Christina Larson writes: The quixotic rise of golf in China—where Mao Zedong once lambasted putting as a bourgeois pastime—is the subject of a new book by the Asia Society’s Dan Washburn. In The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, a charming and accessible work, Washburn follows the lives of three men whose careers are […]
Steven Schwankert writes: Golfers will love reading about the game’s evolution in China, and even China hands who have no interest in golf will chuckle at how Chinese something foreign can become once it lands on these shores. This is a delightful read that can be enjoyed this summer in between time on the links, […]
Mamta Badkar writes: The crackdown on corruption has been a hallmark of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s reign. Increasing corruption in the party was seen as one of the biggest threats to its survival, and Xi has made it clear that he will stomp it out. So it isn’t surprising that top officials in China are […]
Washburn captures China’s shift from its agrarian roots toward more Western pursuits in this engaging story. Read the complete review.
“On this week’s Golf Show we hear from Dan Washburn who is an expert on golf in China, where there has been a recent boom in the sport.”
The Globe and Mail interviewed me about recent stories in the Chinese media linking China’s golf course boom with the country’s drought problems.
Short on elite players but (very) long on perks, the Asian Amateur is a bold experiment by two of the game’s most powerful entities.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama cruised to a win in the second Asian Amateur Championship, earning a berth in the 2011 Masters.
A visit to a construction site reveals a country where golf course building is both banned and booming — and where hope competes with fear every day.
“Green fury over China’s golfing Hawaii” looks at golf development on Hainan Island — especially massive Mission Hills — from an environmental angle.
Green lawns and sand traps are now replacing ancient villages and tropical forests on Hainan Island. Necessary development? Or something else?
On the once-pristine tropical island of Hainan, the world’s biggest golf club is taking shape. Which is curious, given that few Chinese people and there is a ban on building courses.
As China readied to host a $7 million WGC event, local golf pros who pioneered the sport face a new reality: The party may be winding down for them.
This magazine piece on golf and the environment doesn’t discuss China, but you still may want to check it out.
From Shanghai-based Daedalum Films, a 17-minute documentary short inspired by the Par for China book project.
Par for China, Zhou Xunshu and I shared the spotlight on CNN.com in “Green dreams of China’s golfers.”