The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream

The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream

Dan Washburn

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1851689486

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In China, just because something is banned, doesn't mean it can't boom... Statistically, zero percent of the Chinese population plays golf, still known as the "rich man’s game" and considered taboo. Yet China is in the midst of a golf boom — hundreds of new courses have opened in the past decade, despite it being illegal for anyone to build them. Award-winning journalist Dan Washburn charts a vivid path through this contradictory country by following the lives of three men intimately involved in China's bizarre golf scene. We meet Zhou, a peasant turned golf pro who discovered the game when he won a job as a security guard at one of the new, exclusive clubs and who sees himself entering the emerging Chinese middle class as a result; Wang, a lychee farmer whose life is turned upside down when a massive, top-secret golf resort moves in next door to his tiny village; and Martin, a Western executive maneuvering through China’s byzantine and highly political business environment, ever watchful for Beijing's "golf police." The Forbidden Game is a rich and arresting portrait of the world’s newest superpower and three different paths to the new Chinese Dream.

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They want storylines they can sell to the media and the public, and to get them, sources said, they were willing to fudge the figures. Sometimes the publicized numbers were double the real ones, because Mission Hills wanted to be able to say, for example, that they had moved enough dirt to fill Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium thirty-six times, or installed enough electric cable to wrap around Hong Kong Island ten times. A PR staffer at some of Mission Hills’ bigger tournament events,

more familiar with Beaujolais and Bentleys than building golf courses. He knows how to get his job done while constantly looking over his shoulder for the “Beijing golf police.” These are not attributes Martin aimed for when he was growing up in Florida – but then he never knew he’d end up chasing his dreams in China. Trying to pin down just how many golfers there are in China is nearly impossible. Estimates range from several hundred thousand to several million, with the truth likely lying

Hong Kong. It consists of ten eighteen-hole courses and is currently the world’s largest golf course. Watertronics has provided pumping systems worth more than $1 million. There was no more conspicuous a golf project on the planet, but Ken Chu still insisted all those involved treated it as “top secret.” The Chinese have a saying about unwanted attention: “Man should fear fame like pigs fear getting fat.” No developer wanted their golf course to become the fat pig – the project that drew the

talks broke down, he came to the site and told Martin’s team to completely re-route the holes to accommodate the new property line. He demanded a new design be ready by the following day. “They were great holes, with a lake,” Martin said. “The next day we had thirty-two excavators in there completely ripping it all up, irrigation and everything.” A group of high-level local government officials came out that day, as well. They urged the workers to stop, saying they were so close to striking a

extravagant purchases that only a year or two earlier would have been unthinkable for Zhou. Purchases that, if word of them ever traveled back to Qixin, would give his parents a heart attack. After a job interview in Guangzhou, Zhou crossed the border into Hong Kong and bought a 3,000-yuan necklace for Liu Yan. During a tournament in South Korea, he brought her back 3,000 yuan worth of Lancôme cosmetics. At this dinner in Beijing, he was decked out in a brand-new outfit. Shoes by Adidas: 550

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