Golf course should be for all, not just the fat cats

If Jeffrey Lam is so concerned about spreading the gospel of golf to the masses and preserving the Fanling course as a historical heritage, then hand it to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department when the current lease expires

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 3:21am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2018, 7:34pm

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said his beloved Fanling golf course is being picked on “irrationally” as a target for housing development. The remarks by the commercial sector legislator and Executive Council member make for interesting reading. 

Lam, you might remember, was the head of the now-defunct Mega Events Fund, so incompetently run even the government admitted it was a mistake and put it out of its misery last year.

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Among its many blunders, the fund paid a whopping HK$15 million to organisers of the UBS Hong Kong Open at the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Fanling course in 2012; most of the money ended up in the bank accounts of golf ace Rory McIlroy. 

But Lam, his banker and corporate friends and their families didn’t even get to enjoy McIlroy’s genius for long because the golf star pleaded exhaustion after a few rounds.

So much for the free tickets, most of which were not even available to the public. 

These are the same fat cats who claim golf is not an elitist sport and that the city needs the exclusive club to promote it for the wider public.

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It was the same story with an exhibition match with Manchester United, the city’s perennial favourite, in 2013. That one was mostly paid for with an HK$8 million subsidy from the fund. Again, only 18,000 tickets were sold to the public for an event budgeted for 40,000 spectators.

Back in 2010, a year after the fund was set up, the Independent Commission Against Corruption had suggested the fund hand back all unused funds and be shut down.

In 2014, the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee expressed “grave dismay and finds [the fund’s mismanagement] inexcusable”, in a report targeting the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and the Tourism Commission, which ran the fund. 

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But Hong Kong is forgiving and has a short memory, so here we are with Lam pontificating on the future of the Fanling golf course and rounding on its critics.

If Lam and his fellow club members are so concerned about spreading the gospel of golf to the masses and preserving the Fanling course as a historical heritage, it’s easy to do. 

Hand the 170-hectare course with all its facilities to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in 2020 when the current HK$1,000-a-year lease expires. 

Hong Kong doesn’t just need more housing, but more recreational facilities for everyone.