Hong Kong: Golfers have been ‘shocked and enraged’ by the recommendation of a Task Force on Land Supply to take 32 of the Hong Kong Golf Club’s (HKGC) 172-hectare Fanling site for development.
As well as a casting doubt on the future of the US$2 million Hong Kong Open, the move would ‘kill any room for the further development of golf in Hong Kong’ and would have a ‘significant negative impact’ on the Special Administrative Region of China’s position as an international centre, said supporters of the world-famous club.
The flagship event at the HKGC, the Hong Kong Open is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours and has long been regarded as a jewel in Asia’s golfing tournament crown.
In a South China Morning Post report, Danny Lai, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA), was quoted as saying: “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.
“Although the Hong Kong Open will not use the eight holes of the Old Course as part of the competition, the area provides essential supporting services. The tournament may not be sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour.”
A Golf Course Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation, the HKGC, which operates three 18-hole courses at the Fanling venue (Old, New and Eden), issued a statement expressing ‘deep disappointment’ at the suggestion of losing land.
Kenneth Lau Ka-lok, Convenor of the Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, told Commercial Radio the sport was ‘shocked and enraged’ by the recommendation.
“How can a city hold a public opinion poll to vote out the sport of golf?” he said.
Asked how he would react if he were from the European Tour, he said: “I would rethink whether to hold any tournaments in a city so unfriendly to golf.”
Land Supply Task Force Chairman Stanley Wong denied the Task Force is unfriendly to golf. He said there is not enough land for housing ‘especially given the long queuing time for grass-roots people to move into public housing flats’.
He added that ‘some people will inevitably be affected if we are to work for the good of the general public’.
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.
Lai said the HKGA was working with the HKGC to set up a national training academy at 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 takes 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’.