Jockey Club plans public golf course
HONGKONG is to get its first public golf course next year as part of a new Jockey Club-funded facility to be built at Tuen Mun.
Regional Services Department assistant director Mr Stephen Ng Chin-ming said the plan to include the golf course was not controversial and he hoped it would not be turned into another Shalotung saga.
Proposals for a golf course and housing development at Shalotung, which falls within the Pat Sin Leng country park, became the subject of a court battle between environmentalists and private developers last year.
The court ruling, which was in favour of the environmentalists, has forced the developers to adjust their plan and limit the development to within private and Crown land.
Environmentalists have reservations about the Tuen Mun golf course plan, but the site is said to be more suitable than the ecologically sensitive Shalotung area.
The project would be fully funded by the Royal Hongkong Jockey Club.
Mr Ng revealed that the development would cover 20 to 30 hectares and include a nine-hole golf course, a driving range and a horse-riding field.
The proposed site was next to New Tuen Mun Plaza and was currently designated for open space, nursery and stadium purposes.
The department estimated that the project would cost about $100 million, but Mr Ng stressed that the Jockey Club had yet to work out a more accurate estimate.
It will be tabled to the Regional Council in a month.
On approval of the plan by the club's stewards and Regional Councillors, construction would start in the next two months, with the horse-riding field expected to be open to the public by year-end, Mr Ng said.
The club's original plan to build an 18-hole golf course was scrapped after it was unable to find a suitable site - which had to be as large as 60 to 70 hectares - in the territory.
Because of geographical constraints, even the present nine-hole course might not be suitable for international golf competitions, Mr Ng said.
While the club would help manage the horse-riding field, the department would have sole responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the golf course.
Admitting that the department had no experience in running golf courses, he said it had yet to decide whether to contract out the management.
Mr Ng refused to disclose the level of fees to be charged for the activities but said fees would be much lower than those charged by private clubs and would not be substantially higher than those for other sports such as tennis.
The department hoped the project would provide an opportunity for ordinary members of the public to learn golf, which up until now seemed to be a game for the rich.
But the co-founder of Green Power, Dr Simon Chau Sui-cheong, insisted that golf itself was an environmentally unfriendly sport that did not deserve promotion, especially in places such as Hongkong, which lacked space.
''We just cannot afford another golf course in Hongkong,'' Dr Chau said. ''The use of herbicides and fungicides for the maintenance of the golf course is detrimental to people's health.
''Golf requires a large open space for the use of a small group of people. I would prefer the open space be used for other recreational activities.'' The Hongkong Jockey Club refused to comment on the plan.