November 28, 2003
Green Opium Addiction
By JOHN KRICH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
BEIJING -- Michael Ma couldn't believe what he was seeing. The investment consultant, who became a
passionate golfer while studying in the U.S., watched in horror as his new golfing companions hurled
their clubs, abused their caddies and cheated.
"When a friend missed a shot, he flung his club into the water -- and made his caddie fish it out," says
Mr. Ma, 31 years old, recalling the shock of his first few games back on his Beijing home turf in 2001.
"Because caddies retrieve so many balls, and players place them wherever they like, I've even heard
people say that 'All golfers in China are blind.' And if someone is in a high position .
. playing on the
company's money, you have to put up with their way of playing. I saw one of them hit a ball into the
rough, then swing several times and move the ball without counting any of his strokes. But what could I
Mr. Ma concludes: "Golf in China may be for the rich, but it is not a noble sport."
Golf in the People's Republic is booming.
A decade ago, the country had only four clubs. Now there are nearly 200, including what will soon
become the world's largest -- the 180-hole Mission Hills complex at Shenzhen in Guangdong Province.
But golf in China seems to be evolving into a very different game from that which is practiced
elsewhere, where personal demeanor matters as much as the score. If, as the common joke goes, "golf is
a good walk spoiled," then many would argue that in China, it is a good walk often spoiled by excessive
gambling, cheating, drinking, noise, obstruction, favoritism and caddie abuse. Deng Xiaoping once
described the Chinese system as "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Now, the serious player who
takes to Chinese links must be prepared for "golf with Chinese characteristics."
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