Fanling golf course is symbol of Hong Kong's diversity, not society's class divide

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 August, 2013, 2:46am


Some people have asked why Fanling golf course should remain open.

There are seven golf venues in Hong Kong, five of which are located in the New Territories.

Six courses are operated as private clubs, and only the Kau Sai Chau course in Sai Kung is public. But it is important to note that Fanling (as well as Deep Water Bay) offers public access as well, not only for Hongkongers but for international visitors.

Public golf courses are an essential feature for any city that relies on international trade.

Even in a desert climate such as Dubai, the government approves extensive and expensive irrigation systems to sustain golf courses for publicity and/or economic development reasons.

In America it is the most popular leisure sport. In Asia - for example, in South Korea - children have access to golf classes from an early age, and practice ranges dot the country, including on some college campuses.

These phenomena converge to one point; that is golf - as with many other sports and games - has evolved from a gentleman's game reserved for a privileged few to a mass activity. To encourage the public to see golf as a prototype of class divide is to sweep historical perspective into the rubbish bin and to discourage the public to understand social issues from a proper angle.

Golf's popularity in Korea is not only a sign of the country's rising quality of life, but also evidence of its evolution away from industry and towards a service-based economy.

Hong Kong shed its industrial base long ago, yet its tourism offerings do not seem to be evolving.

Indeed, Hong Kong's diversity is in decline, as local flavours and urban contexts yield to retailers of pricey brands. With the prospect of Fanling's golf course disappearing, the problem of Hong Kong's homogenous consumerism comes into sharp focus.

Needs and preferences may change. Consumerism may lose its allure, or China's free-spending tourists may retreat. However, open green space, responding to a deep and universal yearning in human nature, will always be in demand. What we must remember is that once the golf course is closed and built over, it can never be regained.

It is the government's responsibility to keep Hong Kong's social problems, such as the income gap or the apparently permanent housing shortage, separate from the city's international appeal, on which we all to some extent depend.

Elsha Yiu, Pok Fu Lam