Shanghai course demolished as crackdown continues

Shanghai course demolished as crackdown continues

Orient Shanghai one of 66 clubs closed by Chinese government.

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March 22, 2016

Nearly a year after it was ordered to close in a government crackdown on golf courses in China, demolition work was completed on Orient Shanghai on Monday by Songjiang district and the Xiaokunshan town government.

The 18-hole layout, which opened in 2003 and is part of Orient Golf, a chain of golf clubs in mainland China and Taiwan, was one of 66 clubs closed by the central government in an exercise aimed at saving water and protecting arable land.

Orient Shanghai, the long-time host venue of the Shanghai Classic on the China LPGA Tour, was constructed adjacent to the upper Huangpu river off the Dagang exit of the Shanghai-Hangzhou highway. Previously, temporary fish farms occupied the site that was prone to flooding in the rainy season.

While club officials declined to talk about the matter, the reason for its closing is that the Huangpu is Shanghai’s source of drinking water and golf is seen as a pollutant. The government wants to see farming on the land that the course occupied.

But according to an environmental study conducted by the club, local farmers use 20 to 30 times more fertilizers and pesticides than Orient Shanghai in its course maintenance. The irony of the club’s closure is that it went through the full Environmental Protection Agency permitting process and passed every test required by the Songjiang district EPA. 

It was also one of the few courses in China, estimated to number more than 600, that had government approvals, including from Shanghai municipality commerce department, planning department and construction department to be a true golf course.

Despite this, China’s laws are very clear about what can be a drinking water reservoir and what cannot be. The Huangpu starts from Suzhou’s Dianshan lake west of Shanghai. The lake, which is not protected, has factories, residential, marinas and theme parks around its shores. The river is also Shanghai’s primary waterway with major shipping lanes.

As it is, by law such activities prohibit this river to be a drinking water reservoir. Later this year, Shanghai plans to open a new reservoir on the west side of the Huangpu, at which time it will abandon the river as a source of drinking water.

According to officially filed records, Orient Golf has filed a lawsuit against the Songjiang district government for the closure. The lawsuit has been delayed with no date scheduled for a hearing.

With bulldozers demolishing the course, club officials believed there was no point asking the court to declare Orient Shanghai legal. The local government of Xiaokunshan town has agreed to pay the club’s employees and the last half year of the shutdown expenses, but shareholders have not been compensated nor have the 600 club members.

Other notable designs to be demolished around Shanghai included the 36-hole Sun Island club (also on the Huangpu), nine holes at the inland Shanghai International and Shanghai Country Club, the first golf club opened in the city in the modern era in 1991. The Robert Trent Jones II-designed layout was built for US$18 million under a deal arrange by Prescott Bush, brother of former US president George Bush Sr, with funding provided by Japanese interests.