Nick Kristof in 1993. (He's so good even his 17-year-old stories ring true today.)

Nick Kristof in 1993. (He's so good even his 17-year-old stories ring true today.)

From the New York Times:

Pressing ahead with its clampdown on runaway economic growth, the Chinese Government has banned new golf courses and announced that work on some luxury hotels and villas will be halted even though they are already partly built. …

The document said the Government would impose strict limits on the amount of land that can be leased for development and particularly crack down on the rush to build luxury villas, hotels, office buildings and country clubs. Some of those now being built are supposed to be converted into standard apartments, to ease the housing shortage, and into regular commercial buildings. …

“The Government will sternly punish those who engage in speculative activities with the aim of making quick money rather than a long-term investment,” the New China News Agency said Saturday night in announcing the crackdown.

This story was written by Nick Kristof … in 1993.

I dug this one out of the archives to illustrate a point: This Tom-and-Jerry routine between the Chinese government and the golf industry has been going on for a while now. The supposed 2004 moratorium on golf course construction gets a lot of the attention — it’s relatively recent and probably the most official anti-golf legislation — but there have been several stoppages, crackdowns, whatever you want to call them, pretty much since golf reemerged on the Chinese scene in 1984. None, it would seem, has been too serious or successful.

“The first couple used to scare me a bit,” said one industry veteran. “But now I hear about a crackdown and I get 25 leads right behind it. So I don’t know what to tell you. I’d lose sleep trying to think about what is going to happen, because I surely can’t control it.”

The most recent crackdown, which I wrote about in Slate this week, could have more teeth than previous attempts, but it’s too early to tell. Still, talk of “golf police” and bulldozed fairways is bound to catch the attention of those who rely on golf’s growth for their livelihood — due to changes in the global marketplace, China is pretty much the only country building new golf courses these days.

“I think right now they are just cracking down a little bit — that’s my take on it,” said my source, who works in the golf course construction industry. “But what I don’t like is that all our eggs are in one basket right now. If somebody stepped up and shut the doors in China on golf, wow, the entire industry is gone. Because right now everyone is after that one market that’s over there.”