[A]s Dan Washburn writes in his compelling new book … golf “offers a unique window into today’s China,” a country of paradoxes perhaps best exemplified by the fact that although construction of new golf courses has been banned in China since at least 2004, more than 400 were built between 2005 and 2010, making China the only place in the world experiencing a golf boom. Government officials who enjoy hitting the links register at golf courses under false names, afraid of leaving a paper trail connecting them to a game most often associated with capitalism and corruption. And while massive golf course complexes lined with luxury villas populate large tracts of land outside Chinese cities, their owners attempt to hide the courses in plain sight, giving them convoluted names like the “Anji China Ecotourism and Fitness Center.”
Like so much else in contemporary China, golf occupies a gray zone: officially forbidden, yet tolerated — even encouraged — behind the scenes, as local government officials and land developers reap massive profits from the construction of new courses.
Update from a reader:
Perhaps I can contribute a small illustration of the absurdity of golf in China.
My wife and I have lived in China for nearly a year and recently returned from a vacation in Yunnan (very near the course pictured in the thread). One of our stops was Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which offered wonderful, but in our case, clouded vista at ~4,600m. Coming back down in the cable car and emerging from the fog, we were presented with the last thing we expected at the altitude and surroundings: 18 holes of vibrant green. At 3,100+ meters altitude, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club is the longest in the world at 8,500+ yards (par 72). It even boasts villas, but I can’t imagine they would have much conventional luxury at such a remote location.
(Photo of a golf course in Kunming by Philippe Semanaz)