The Chinese Communist Party has forbidden its 88 million members from joining golf clubs. This is an effort by officials to crack down on corruption as golf memberships are considered expensive gifts in China.
The new rule states that party members are prohibited from “obtaining, holding or using membership cards for gyms, clubs, golf clubs, or various other types of consumer cards, or entering private clubs.”
If party members are found to violate this decree, they could either receive a warning or be removed from their position, depending on the severity of the violation.
The new regulations did not explain why joining golf clubs is banned, but “such clubs are often seen by the Chinese public as places where officials have cut shady deals,” according to the BBC.
In September, local media reported that at least 60 employees in state-owned companies were punished for spending public funds on playing golf.
Earlier this month, Lin Chunsong, a vice-mayor in the south-eastern Fujian province, was sacked for belonging to a golf club and playing golf while he should have been at work.
“Party members must separate public and private interests, put the public’s interest first, and work selflessly,” the report said. Party members must also “champion simplicity and guard against extravagance”.
“The new discipline regulation explicitly lists extravagant eating and drinking and playing golf as violations, which were not included previously,” it said.
Explaining the new rules and underscoring golf’s negative image, the party’s corruption watchdog said on Thursday that golf was a game enjoyed by a former police chief who engaged in “massive” bribery. A vice mayor in a southeastern Chinese city was sacked this month for belonging to a golf club and playing the game when he should have been working.
In 2004 China announced a ban in building new golf courses, which has not always been enforced, and the number of courses has increased from 200 in 2004 to 600 in 2015. However, many local authorities have supported the development of building courses to attract tourists.
In China, golf is viewed as a social interaction, where business deals are cemented.
“If a company boss can’t play with a government official, there’s little point in him spending his money,” said the owner of a golf equipment store in Shanghai who only gave his surname as Huang in a Reuters report.
Golf industry insiders have said the crackdown will hinder the game’s development in the country, with courses being shut down and people concerned with being tainted by their involvement in the sport.
Now, of course, the ban doesn’t apply to civilians, but it still will likely impact the growth of the game. Chinese golf operators are hoping the new rule won’t hurt the game in the long term, with the expectation that the upper-middle class will play more in the future.