Hong Kong golfers want four-storey waterfront driving range at Kai Tak in Kowloon, to match New York, Chicago and Tokyo
Alliance of Golfers says the sport deserves more government support as an Olympic event, and rejects growing clamour for closure of Fanling course to make way for housing
Golf lovers in Hong Kong have called for construction of a four-storey downtown driving range on a waterfront site in Kowloon, amid fierce debate in the city over whether to close a course in the rural New Territories to make way for housing.
The Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, formed of players, coaches and industry workers, said the city lagged behind New York, Chicago and Tokyo by not having such a facility.
The alliance said an “integrated golf centre” should be built near a sports park under construction at Kai Tak, the site of the city’s old airport. It could cover about 1,800 square metres and host 60 driving bays, the group said.
The proposal was a core part of a study released by the alliance on Monday that found 78 per cent of 4,516 golf fans and players opposed any closure of Fanling golf course, situated in the northern part of Hong Kong near the border with mainland China.
Some 78.8 per cent of respondents wanted more driving ranges in urban areas. There are already a number of indoor facilities downtown, many being simulators.
Alliance spokesman Kenneth Lau Ka-lok said: “Golf is an event of the Olympic Games – it deserves more attention and support from the government.
“A harbourfront driving range would not only add value to the land, it would help popularise the sport and provide a badly needed training venue. The facility could also become a distinctive landmark and tourist attraction.”
According to the alliance, there are more than 140,000 golf enthusiasts in Hong Kong, and the industry employs 3,000 workers.
The advocacy group for the sport was launched in April in an effort to fight back against plans to develop the Fanling course – home to the Hong Kong Golf Club – for new homes to ease the city’s housing shortage.
The issue has largely become a battle between Hong Kong’s haves and have-nots, with activists accusing golfers of robbing the public of badly needed land for a game played mostly by the rich.
The site has been leased to the golf club by the government until August 2020.
An official task force on land supply, which is presiding over a public consultation exercise on ways to boost land for housing, has listed doing away with the course as one of 18 options to be considered.
But Lau said: “It is not a quid pro quo. We want the Fanling course to be kept and we also want a driving range in an urban area.”
He added that “partial development” of the course was also not workable.
“A golf course that is cut apart is not a proper golf course any more. Imagine a basketball court that is cut in half to make way for flats. You wouldn’t be able to play full-court there.”
In the survey, 79.9 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with government support for golf. And some 88.1 per cent wanted officials to set up a fund to help nurture young players.