China Cracks Down on Golf Course Construction

Dalu Dunes in China’s Inner Mongolia Province – now closed.

Dalu Dunes in China’s Inner Mongolia Province – now closed.

China’s Central Government banned the construction of new golf courses in 2004. But as you may be aware, money-hungry Chinese local authorities and developers have completely ignored this ban. As a result, the number of golf courses in China has more than quintupled – from 170 to around 1,000 – in the last decade. Great for the golf course design industry perhaps, but increasingly embarrassing for the Chinese Government. So when the new Communist Party Leadership Committee took over last March, it decided enough was enough. 

“Since the new administration came in, there has been a major crackdown on developments and golf courses seem to be being targeted as part of this policy,” explains Lee Schmidt of Schmidt Curley Design, a leading golf course architecture firm that has built over 40 courses in China. 

This crackdown has gained momentum recently, with new courses being destroyed, state-of-the-art clubhouses torn down and existing layouts being turned into farmland, parks and tea plantations. “Most of the courses the government has chosen to shut down have been built on farmland, forested areas or other restricted land,” says Schmidt. “This is why the decision to close Dalu Dunes came as such a big surprise to us. It isn’t designed on any of the above.”

Dalu Dunes (pictured) is an inland links Schmidt Curley Design recently completed in China’s Inner Mongolia Province. Built over the course of two summers, it looks beautiful and it was due to open this month. 

“We’ve worked in China for 20 years and until two years ago none of our courses had ever been closed,” Schmidt reveals. But recently, a few of our projects have been shut down. We do not know if the closures are permanent. Since we are technically just consultants we have not been informed of the true reasons behind the closures.”

A Chinese government spokesperson said: “The crackdown was designed to serve as a warning to would-be violators.” If this was the plan, early reports suggest it isn’t working, with local authorities still hell-bent on gaining revenue from selling their land to course developers and attracting wealthy tourists to the facilities they create. “Golf’s popularity is growing fast in Asia,” adds Schmidt. “Hopefully the government, local authorities and developers can work together to create guidelines to ensure new projects can happen as long as they benefit both the environment and the communities where the courses are located.” 

Nick Wright