You would have to think I am joking but I’m not. When one thinks of sport in China, as you do, one would probably come up with ping pong, swimming, hurdling, gymnastics, weight lifting and possibly soccer but never golf.
For those of you who aren’t golfing aficionados, and there are some, I am here to tell you that China defeated Australia in men’s elite amateur golf in 2009 in a recent international event in Korea. Australia has been in the top 3 golfing countries for men’s amateur golf for the last 20 years. China only started playing golf in the last 20 years – but such has been their development that the improbable occurred last year.
How could this happen? One explanation is that Australian golf has gone backwards – there may be some truth in that, but a more appropriate reason is that golf has gone gang busters in China because of golf’s inclusion in the Olympic Games for 2016. It is now kosher to build golf courses on previously arable land as the Ruling Party can see the economic benefits of golf. Not embarrassed about copying other courses, Chinese entrepreneurs have paid emperor’s ransoms for some of the world’s leading golf course designers to turn paddy fields into golf courses. And not just ordinary courses – the many courses that I have seen and played (that may be overstating the case as my form is ordinary at best) are equal to anything in Australia.
As an example, Mission Hills Golf Club, which is just north of Shenzhen and about one hour by car from Hong Kong International Airport, has 12 courses – the biggest golfing complex in the world. The 10 courses that I have played are all great courses and known by the names of their designers. You can play Norman in the morning and Faldo in the afternoon. Water, water everywhere and I would not advise drinking it but do take plenty of balls. If the water doesn’t get them then the fierce rough will. Most are 9 ball courses as they say in Japan. As with all the courses I have played in China, there comes with it, a beautiful Chinese female caddy, ready to compliment any shot that gets air-borne and does not disappear into the rough. Be prepared for a shot that (let’s face it this has never happened to me) heads towards another course – there will be a loud chorus from all of the caddies of something that sounds like “Wang Chei” but means “fore” in Chinese. It is almost worth sacrificing a ball to hear the response.
I have also played (golf that is) in Shanghai and a beautiful little city by Chinese standards (1 million which qualifies as a Chinese village) named JiangMen which is in the south and about a 2 hour ferry ride west from Hong Kong. There is a wonderful course with 27 holes there surrounded, as many are, with unbelievable condominiums which appear unoccupied. Where the money comes from to build these mansions is a mystery to me but clearly the Chinese economy is doing better than most.
Not only can the tourist part with his or her hard-earned on the great golf courses, but they will find: accommodation to their liking; many tourist shrines for westerners – in fact the men found lined up at Xian are thought by some to be lining up to gain entrance to the Chinese equivalent of the Masters Golf ; very cheap shopping where “Made in China” is probably correct and not least the Chinese people themselves. Contrary to my preconceived ideas, they are friendly and helpful and plentiful. Many young people will want to try their Engrish out and approaching an Australian is hardly an ideal way to start learning the idiosyncrasies of the queen’s English but I do know now that a good deal of them can say “get stuffed” without appreciating the context – so if a young woman approaches you and says “get stuffed” then she probably thinks it is Chinese for good morning.
So save up, get your Chinese tourist visa and head for an unforgettable and inexpensive golfing holiday in China. Don’t tell your friends, if you have any, as this may only confirm their view of your insanity, but it is an experience that you will want to repeat.
*Dr David Cherry* is A/Prof of Pain Management and Vice President of the Asian Pacific Golf Confederation