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  • Aug 1, 2014
  • Updated: 5:20am
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DEVELOPMENT

Fears golf will suffer if Fanling course is redeveloped for housing in Hong Kong

Golf leaders say if the land in the New Territories is redeveloped for housing, the sport - and the Hong Kong Open tournament - will suffer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 2:41pm

Local golf may have a bleak future and the Hong Kong Open professional tournament is at risk if the courses at Fanling are lost to new-town development, say leaders of the sport in the city.

William Chung Pui-lam, president of the Hong Kong Golf Association, said growth of the game - recently made an Olympic sport - would suffer if the Hong Kong Golf Club's three-course, 170-hectare facility at Fanling were lost to housing.

"Any disruption would certainly have a detrimental effect [on the development of the game in Hong Kong]," he said.

Chung is the first senior golf official to comment on suggestions that the club's land in the northeastern New Territories be redeveloped for housing.

Chung, a member of the club, was last month re-elected for a second stint as president of the association. He refused to comment on the future of the open, but said support from golf clubs was vital for the growth of the game.

The Hong Kong Golf Club has refused to comment, but will address the issue at a committee meeting on Monday. "We are currently reviewing all the information and will be making a formal statement soon," said general manager Keith Williams.

Members said the future of the Fanling site was a "very sensitive issue", a "huge concern" and potentially "a devastating blow".

Golf commentator Dominique Boulet, a former Hong Kong representative and a member of the club for almost 30 years, said: "If we lost the Hong Kong Golf Club, I'm not sure I would live here any more."

One club member questioned the government's motives, saying: "There are other tracts of land available."

He said he hoped "cooler heads will prevail".

Another long-time golfer said: "It would be a devastating blow to the Hong Kong Open if we lost the Hong Kong Golf Club. This tournament is the oldest open in Asia to have been played continuously at one venue [Fanling] … just imagine if we lost it."

The club's lease on the Fanling site expires in 2020, but the government can reclaim the land by giving 12 months' notice.

The club was founded in 1889 in Happy Valley and the Old Course was created in Fanling in 1911. It is the second-oldest course in the world outside Britain, after the Royal Calcutta Golf Club's course in India.

Reports that a compromise could be reached in which the Hong Kong Golf Club would give up a section of Fanling - most likely the Old Course - have not been confirmed.

"I have not heard anything about giving up one of the courses as a compromise," Chung said.

There are 90 golfers in Hong Kong's international team who use the courses at Fanling to train and play.

Hong Kong coach Brad Schadewitz said: "We need more golf facilities and not less. If we lose the facilities at Fanling, it will have a major impact on the game.

"This is the case in any sport, but more so in golf, simply because there are so few courses."

The association has around 16,000 members on a handicap, and there are thousands more who don't have a handicap but play the game.

Hong Kong has four private golf clubs - the Hong Kong Golf Club, the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, the Discovery Bay Golf Club and the Shek O Golf & Country Club. There is one public course at Kau Sai Chau, off Sai Kung.

Hong Kong has 688 hectares of golf courses, less than half of Singapore's 1,500 hectares, which are spread over 18 courses.

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John Adams
I fully agree with henleyhk !
Why should the hobby of a few rich people take precedence over the housing and public park needs of tens of thousands of local people ?
chaz_hen
Golf courses and cemeteries...biggest needless wastes of land.
I propose solving three of Hong Kong's pressing issues: dig a huge pit, dump all the ashes of HK's deceased in it along with non recyclables, fill it up and then put a 9-hole course on top.
daniel18
Our government should be affrimative when it comes to dealing with such urgent issue as skyrocketing property prices, in particular for those living in cubicle. It should identify the gravity of the problem. Home for those in dire need VS golf field for the rich! It is too obvious!
henleyhk
This is a no-brainer. The need for decent living conditions at affordable prices in HK is far greater than the need for golfing facilities for a few of HK's millionaires/billionaires. If Fanling were a public course, or if the club were paying a commercial rent for its facilities, the answer might be different; but the current position is indefensible.
John Adams
I fully agree !
Why should the hobby of a few rich people take precedence over the housing and public park needs of tens of thousands of local people ?
2crazy4words
HK has so few golf courses and the public one at KSC is full to capacity virtually everyday of the week. The primary issue here is elitism and the peppercorn rents the clubs pay to remain exclusive. At the end of their leases make the courses public. The existing members can still play there but so can the golfing public. The environment is protected and many more people can enjoy the game. There are plenty of alternative sites but not so many with such political leverage. Consider the issues and don't turn this into a class struggle.
ianson
The patch of green offered by the course is a plus for the environment. Let's not see it turned into another concrete canyon.
rpasea
If the Hong Kong Golf Association really wanted to promote the sport, and not just save existing facilities for a small group of elite members, their position would be to open all courses to the public. Fanling, Deepwater Bay, Clearwater Bay, Shek O and Disco Bay can all be public courses in 12 months if govt had a backbone.
Regarding the HK Open, isn't this the event govt paid big bucks for a certain golfer to attend but the event wasn't open to the public?
onedistrict
Fear is natural. For a place that has no PGA or WPGA player, taking golf lessons across the border at Shenzhen or Guangzhou may yield significantly better results.

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