The Beijing government recently slapped a luxury tax on golf clubs and balls as part of the efforts to close the nation's yawning wealth gap, but golfers are critical of the move as they say it fails to recognise the game is a healthy sport with widespread appeal. From April 1 a 10 per cent consumption tax was placed on golf balls and clubs. The legal adjustment also targets yachts and high-end watches. 'The new tax is unfortunate as far as the growth of golf is concerned,' said Li Hao, owner of the Beijing Honghua Intenational Golf Club. 'In the mind of the government, golf is a luxury. They do not consider it to be a sport, more a form of entertainment. It is bad news for golf in China and for investors in the sport.' The growth of golf on the mainland has come in for some official criticism in recent years, largely over its use of scarce land resources and large quantities of water. To counter the criticism of excessive water use, many courses now use treated waste water to keep their fairways green. The Honghua course draws its water from the same treatment plant that will be used to water the Olympic Green, Li said, adding that they had built their own water treatment plant for their sister course, the Beijing CBD International Golf Club. 'The government appreciates this and supports our initiative to conserve scarce resources,' he said. Aside from the new tax on clubs and balls, green fees were already taxed at more than 20 per cent, Li said. He said the government also used to tax sports like tennis and snooker as luxury recreations, but those levies have since been dropped. 'I think the same will happen with golf. Someday they will accept it is a sport and a very healthy way to spend a few hours, so they will drop the taxes.' Dr Li Jian, an economist with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told state media the new taxes were a way for the government to redistribute some of the nation's wealth. 'The tax on luxury goods indicates the government's attitude towards luxury goods consumption, particularly competition among the rich to keep up with the Joneses,' he said. But rather than affecting the rich, critics say the new law will have the greatest impact on the young middle classes. For the mega-rich these things don't matter, but for average people it can make a difference,' said Calvin Zhang, a 28-year-old salesman from Beijing. 'For instance, my friend was saving up for a set of clubs that cost nearly 10,000 yuan. Now it'll cost about 1,000 yuan extra. People like that, who are quite well off but not very rich, might reconsider and decide to play something else instead,' he said. 'The government says the game is only for the wealthy, but if they keep taxing it they will scare the common people away. They are the ones who will be hurt by this.' But as things stand the majority of people playing golf in Beijing belong to the wealthy classes and it is unlikely they will be put off by the new tax, says Zhan Guiyong of Wanliu Golf Club. 'The tax won't have much effect on most of our members. The price of our membership ranges from 200,000 yuan to one million yuan. The members are entrepreneurs and heads of multinationals who are not very sensitive to price changes,' he said. Hong Kong and other shopping destinations for mainlanders could prove to be the ultimate winners from the taxation policy, Zhang said. 'When most of my friends think of buying luxury items they often wait until they go to Hong Kong because there is a better selection there and cheaper prices.'