European Tour and Asian Tour could ditch Hong Kong Open if part of Fanling Old Course is taken away
- Task Force on Land Supply recommends resuming 32 hectares of government land from Fanling club
- The 172-hectare course is on private recreational lease due to expire in 2020
The future of the US$2 million Hong Kong Open will be in jeopardy if the government takes back part of the Fanling Old Course as recommended by the Task Force on Land Supply, a senior golf official warned.
The flagship event at the Hong Kong Golf Club is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours as one of the prominent tournaments in the region but the recent saga on the land use problem will affect its future status.
“It will definitely cast doubt on the future of the Hong Kong Open if part of the Old Course is taken away by the government,” said Hong Kong Golf Association chief executive Danny Lai. “Although the Hong Kong Open will not use the eight holes of the Old Course as part of the competition, the area does provide the essential supporting services.
“The tournament may not be sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour because of a reduced size course.”
There are a number of community events held on that area during the Hong Kong Open while the fairways are also being used as car parks for the thousands of enthusiastic fans keen to watch world-class golfers in action.
“Although it is not used for competition, it is important for maintenance purpose as they have to rotate the use of different courses before the Hong Kong Open to preserve the good condition of [the fairways and greens] for competition,” added Lai.
There are three 18-hole courses at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling, which include the Eden Course and the New Course.
Inaugurated in 1959, the Hong Kong Open is one of two tournaments in the world, along with the US Masters at Augusta National, that has been held at the same venue every year for more than half a century.
On Monday, the government-appointed task force decided that, as far as options for alternative uses of private recreational leased sites are concerned, priority should be given to studying the possibility of taking back 32 hectares of land at the Fanling golf club to the east of Fan Kam Road.
The 32 hectares of land is occupied by eight holes of the Old Course and a car park. The total area of the 172-hectare golf club is located on government land and the existing lease will expire in 2020.
Lai said they were working with the club to set up a national training academy in the Old Course for golf development in Hong Kong at all levels – from grass roots to the elite. But the plan would be scrapped if the government took back part of the land.
“The golf association has a firm and strong stance in preserving Fanling for its players and the future of the sport in Hong Kong,” said Lai, who also accused the task force of “completely ignoring the immense contributions of the Fanling facility to golf development and to the community”.
“It’s like horses with a blinker with a very narrow view,” he said.
He said the golf association takes care of the interest of some 100,000 golfers in Hong Kong, including recreational players, according to a recent survey.
However, he said their needs have been overlooked by the government, which provides little in the way of golfing facilities for the Hong Kong public.