Golf has been considered a rich people’s sport for a long time. In many countries, most golfers are from the upper social class. China is one of them. For the general public, golf is considered to be prohibitively expensive. However, it is seen as the top recreational sport for businesspeople and officials.
Just 0.07% of the Chinese population plays golf regularly, which is about a million people. The tiny percentage reflects how out of reach the game is to everyone but to elites. The people who play golf in China, are usually rich and powerful. Some of them are the top managers of a big company, some of them are government officials. Golf in China is about social interaction. If a company boss can’t play with a government official, there’s little point in him spending his money. So golf is simply a sport played by the wealthiest and most powerful people in China.
Money certainly plays an important role in golf. In America, golf isn’t cheap either, but it’s not generally outrageous. Golfers pay less than $50 a round at public courses here. In China, players might as well add a zero to the total. This is because the first golf course only opened in China in 1984, and now, thirty years later, only 600 courses dot the country (compared to 15,000 in the U.S.), the price for a round feels as steep as a V.I.P. table in a Las Vegas club. Moreover that, a membership in a good golf course can manifest someone’s position.
However, China government is also a key for the development of golf in China. Once denounced by Mao Zedong as a “sport for millionaires,” golf is no longer forbidden among China’s governing elite — somewhat fittingly for a nation that now boasts the most billionaires in the world.
Last year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) banned its 88 million members from playing golf, cognizant that the sport’s image as a crucible for shady business deals chaffed with President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anticorruption drive. The golf course is gradually changing into a muddy field where people trade money for power. But according to the Discipline Inspection and Supervision News, Communist leaders are changing their minds. The paper says, “Since it is only a sport, there is no right or wrong about playing golf.”
China’s relationship with golf has been anything but simple, and reality has seldom reflected the rules. Though golf was banned in 1949 in the wake of China’s communist revolution, the sport began to boom in the 1980s following the economic and social reforms initiated by then leader Deng Xiaoping. Until now, President Xi Jinping banned golf but open it again.
Golf in China has come a long way, and it still has a long way to go. As a teenager golfer, I feel sad with the government policies toward golf, and I am sad with the high prices I have to pay whenever I play. Golf is the sport I love the most, and I really hope that the government can give a chance to let golf grow in China. With the bronze medal that Shanshan Feng won in the Rio Olympics, with the young man Jing Cheng participated in the Masters this year, Chinese are proving that we can be good at golf. But without the support of the government and country, golfers lose the motivation and spirits to fight for their country. In the other hand, it is hard to support a “sport for millionaire”. The land for building a golf course and be used to build 3 or 4 factories. And factories can provide more work opportunities for the lower class people, while there are not much work opportunities in a golf club. However, golf is still an expensive sport in China now. I believe after 20 or 30 years, golf will be more popular and affordable sport for every social class of people in China.