Hong Kong housing

Hands off Fanling: legendary Gary Player says Hong Kong Golf Club deserves protection from housing

With a task force eyeing the fairways of Fanling, South African warns against taking the wrecking ball to a Hong Kong landmark

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 1:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 11:01pm

All-time great Gary Player has appealed to government authorities to preserve Hong Kong Golf Club from any housing development, saying the historic club and its three courses are revered in the golfing world.

With the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply meeting on Saturday and about to deliver its findings on building flats on all or some of the 170-hectare property in Fanling, Player said authorities should carefully consider the impact of “closing this Hong Kong landmark”.

“The course is revered in the world by both professionals and the general golf public alike, highlighted by being a ‘Platinum Golf Club of the World’,” said Player, referring to the prestigious status awarded by an international panel of private club experts.

“It has hosted many marquee events throughout its history, including the very first Hong Kong Open [1959], the first ever Hong Kong Ladies Open [2015] and the World Amateur Team Championships [to be held in 2020].”

Gimme, gimme, gimme: how can the Hong Kong Golf Club keep its courses and all its privileges?

The 82-year-old South African legend also said the club’s three courses, which are maintained to world-class standards without taking a drop of potable water or groundwater supplies, had been registered to become environmentally recognised Audubon Cooperative Golf Sanctuaries.

In a letter to the South China Morning Post, Player also reminded the government the club and its courses hosted the equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had been utilised for a multitude of alternative public events, and its support to charity and the community must not go unnoticed.

“This world-class golf course deserves to be preserved for generations to come,” said Player, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

The task force has proposed building more than 5,000 flats on the Old Course, which was built in 1911.

Player, the winner of nine majors and 165 tournaments around the world, also designed the first two public courses at Kau Sai Chau off Sai Kung, which were opened in 1995.

Player was last at Fanling in 2014, an honoured guest at the 50th anniversary of the Little Sai Wan Golf Society, which has playing rights at the three courses.

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The society’s match secretary, Jean Paul Cuvelier, said replacing a centenary golf course with high-rise buildings would be a “nonsense” and “unacceptable”. He also highlighted the pollution it would bring, with the area already suffocating from neighbouring Shenzhen and the factory boom in the Pearl River Delta.

“Why do we want to bring mega pollution to Fanling? Are we targeting the same pollution index as Causeway Bay?” he asked.

“Building a housing estate means new roads and a potential MTR extension. That’s years and years of construction, noise and pollution.

“Who are the beneficiaries? Certainly not the Hong Kong residents, but only the developers, builders and the speculators.”

Cuvelier, a former chairman of the Belgium and Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said he disagreed with the politicians’ arguments this would be for the well-being of Hong Kong people.

“Most of the potential owners will come from the mainland to buy a flat with … a golf view,” he said.

“We have a majestic piece of green in the middle of our great city. Politicians want to chop down all these trees and remove ancestral graves dating back several hundred years to the Qing and Ming dynasties.

“Let’s be realistic. This is a worldwide shame and unacceptable.”

“These golf courses in Fanling are an oasis in a very congested city. Let’s hope that common sense will prevail,” added Cuvelier, who came to Hong Kong in 1979 and has been playing golf at Fanling for 20 years.