World

China shuts golf courses in crackdown

BEIJING China has ordered the closure of a sixth of the country's golf courses since 2011, its top economic planner said, in an ongoing crackdown on a sport controversial for its links with the wealthy elites.

China's ruling Communist Party has an ambivalent relationship with golf.

Local authorities have profited from selling land for the courses, but they are seen as venues for shady deal-making between the elites and the politicians.

The central authorities ordered a nationwide freeze on new golf courses in 2004, which was largely ignored.

Since a fresh crackdown was launched in 2011, 111 of China's 683 golf courses nationwide were ordered shut, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday.

Operators voluntarily closed an additional 11, it added.

The courses were taken to task for illegally using arable land or nature reserves, extracting groundwater in prohibited areas and other violations.

The NDRC ordered an additional 18 courses to return illegally occupied land, as well as 47 others to stop further construction.

Golf courses are present in all of China's provincial-level regions except Tibet, according to the NDRC.

The country boasts world-class fairways and an emerging crop of young players, but expensive memberships mean that only a minority of the Chinese have swung a golf club.

In 2015, the country's 88 million Communist Party members were banned from joining golf clubs in a crackdown that also targeted banquets and lavish gift-giving. - AFP

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