Hong Kong Golf Association asks government to rethink housing plan
Hong Kong Golf Association says loss of two courses would hamper the Hong Kong Open and also hinder progress of city's amateurs
The Hong Kong Golf Association has called on the government to leave the city's golf courses alone and says they are vital for the development of the sport in the city.
The HKGA said Fanling, the course targeted for possible reuse for housing, is indispensible for hosting the popular Hong Kong Open international tournament.
In a statement yesterday, the association said it was "disappointed" that lawmakers and the government were eyeing the golf sites for redevelopment.
"The HKGA has no facilities of its own and must rely on all golf clubs and driving ranges, whether private or public, to support its mission in training and coaching players for Hong Kong," it said. It has a squad of 110 members who have free use of the private clubs.
Four private golf clubs are the constituent members of the association: the Hong Kong Golf Club, which runs the three 18-hole courses in Fanling, the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, the Discovery Bay Golf Club and the Shek O Country Club.
The HKGA gave its view after lawmakers passed a non-binding motion on Monday to call on the government to develop the Fanling golfing site instead of razing existing villages under the new town scheme for the northeastern New Territories. Officials said the 170-hectare golfing site would be covered by a separate new-town study next year.
Commenting on the proposals to take over two out of the three courses in Fanling for housing, golf association chief executive Iain Valentine said the Fanling site had sufficient space to ensure that the popular Hong Kong Open, a co-sanctioned tournament between the Asian and European Tours, ran smoothly.
"Reducing the Fanling site is reducing the possibility of hosting championships and being able to cater to spectators," he said. The spectator experience at the tournament was "second to none", the statement added.
It said golf clubs provided facilities not only for their members, but also for the public and the development of Hong Kong's amateur golf to an international level.
Having paid a land premium of HK$1,000 to the government for Fanling, the Hong Kong Golf Club collects millions of dollars in membership fees, and is open to non-members during the week, charging each individual a green fee of HK$2,000.
The association compared the city with Singapore, which had courses offering twice as many holes. However, the Singaporean government announced in January it was also looking at recycling golf sites for other land uses to cope with population expansion. In an earlier reply to a Post inquiry, Singapore's Ministry of Law said the majority of the city's golf course leases would expire between 2021 and 2030.
Hong Kong has six golf venues - in Fanling, Deep Water Bay, Clear Water Bay, Discovery Bay, Shek O, Sai Kung and Chek Lap Kok. The first three operate under private recreational leases and can be reclaimed for public use.