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Official patronage spurs golf course boom despite development ban

(Xinhua)

11:25, August 14, 2011

BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Local officials seeking profits from land sales are behind China's recent golf course boom, despite a seven-year-old central government ban on the development of new courses, industry insiders say.

The officials, who are often entertained by businessmen at these luxurious facilities, become loyal patrons and backers for further developments, they say.

The country has seen the development of 430 new golf courses since the State Council, or China's Cabinet, ordered the ban in 2004. This brings the number of golf courses in China to about 600, most of which are located in the suburbs of the country's major cities.

Most of the new golf courses were developed under the disguise of "eco-tourism projects" or "property development" to circumvent the ban, said Feng Ke, director of Peking University's real estate finance center.

Beijing is home to more than 60 golf courses, about half of which were built after 2004. Most are located near top-end villas and resorts. Only a few of the golf courses were built in compliance with current policies, Feng said.

It costs nearly 1 million yuan (156,000 U.S. dollars) to purchase a lifetime membership at Beijing's Qinghewan Golf Course, a sprawling 36-hole golf complex. However, the course has yet to secure approval for development from the municipal government, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Land and Resources's website.

Chen Guoqiang, vice chairman of the China Real Estate Society, said local governments have turned a blind eye to irregularities in development approvals or are even involved in the illegal developments themselves.

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