One of Hong Kong’s most exclusive clubs – The Hong Kong Golf Club – has come under the spotlight recently. Many are angry that the 170 hectares it occupies in Fanling will be left untouched while thousands of villagers face being relocated to make way for the redevelopment of the northeast New Territories. To advocates of “socialism with Hong Kong characteristics”, the proles must surely come before golfers and golf courses.
There is a Ming dynasty court painting that shows the Xuande Emperor (1399-1435) wielding what looks like a golf club and hitting a small ball into holes on the ground marked by flags. Certain people have taken the artwork to be proof that golf was “invented” in China, but there’s no evidence that the sport in its modern form is a direct descendant of the ancient Chinese game of chuiwan (“striking the ball”), believed to have originated during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Chinese claims to innumerable innovations in ancient times may well mask unease over the country’s dearth of contributions to the modern era; but it’s quite likely that this simple game, like many “inventions”, was developed in isolation by different groups and at different times.