Hong Kong golfers form alliance to enter debate over developing Fanling course
Group organiser says public holds misconceptions about the sport, which he believes has suffered from lack of government support
Hong Kong actor Billy Lau Nam-kwong helped launch an alliance of golfers on Friday in a possible attempt to stymie plans to build on the city’s 170-hectare golf course in Fanling.
Developing the site, home of Hong Kong Golf Club, has been mooted as a way of easing the city’s housing shortage.
Lau and 20 other golf enthusiasts formed the Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, which will work to gauge the views of the 40,000-strong golf sector on whether the course should be saved from development.
The group was formed as a government-appointed land supply task force kicked off a five-month public consultation on how best to address the city’s acute shortage of land for housing and economic development.
The public have been invited to give feedback on 18 possible ways to meet Hongkongers’ housing needs, including using part or all of the Fanling course for housing.
The issue has become a battle between the city’s haves and have-nots, as some concern groups have said the course – leased to the golf club by the Home Affairs Bureau until August 2020 – robs the public of badly needed land for a game played by the wealthy.
That battle became physical on Friday after Labour Party member Oscar Lo was attacked by an unidentified man, after going to the course as part of a demonstration in favour of developing the course.
The scuffle occurred soon before the alliance announced it had formed.
The alliance’s vice-convenor, Kenneth Lau, said it was a misconception that golf was a sport only for the rich.
“This sport is for all walks of life. On the contrary, the livelihoods of local golf practitioners have been affected because of a lack of government support all these years and a reduction of driving ranges to make way for other development,” he said. “We are really afraid that the public and the government are misled into making an irreversible decision so we need to reflect the real situation to the government.”
A government consultancy report suggested either developing a 32-hectare (80-acre) eastern part of the course into 4,600 flats, or developing the whole course for 13,000 flats.
Kenneth Lau, however, stopped short of expressing his group’s stance, saying it would only voice its views after collecting the opinions of the sector via a survey and questionnaires.
The group was expected to compile a report before September and submit it to the government and the task force.
Jason Chung, a golf coach at Fanling and member of the alliance, said the course should not be placed in an antagonistic position with housing development.
“These two issues shouldn’t be placed as counteracting each other. There are other options for housing development and people should look at this issue fairly,” he said.
Chung pointed out that there were about 140,000 golfers in the city in addition to 3,000 people employed by the sport, including coaches, caddies and workers on driving ranges.
The alliance has planned a series of promotional activities to garner public support, including free bi-weekly training sessions run by professional coaches that are open to the public over the next two months. A donation drive will also be held to but 5,000 to 10,000 golf clubs to give to schools and the public.
Kenneth Lau stressed the Fanling course was irreplaceable because it was the only course in Hong Kong suitable for hosting international competitions such as the Hong Kong Open.
He said the alliance’s main objective was to fight for more sport space for golf development and the formulation of athlete development programmes.
“Hong Kong has been lagging behind many places in golf development,” he said. “Even Singapore has 17 golf courses, compared with six in Hong Kong.”