Next week, voluntary groups in more than 12 countries will launch the first World No-Golf Day aimed at combating golf tourism by Europeans, Americans and Japanese. The protest, on 29 April, is being co-ordinated by the Global Network for Anti-Golf Course Action (GNAGA), founded in Japan.
Tricia Barnett, co-ordinator of the British pressure group Tourism Concern, said: 'We are asking people who play golf abroad to think very carefully about it.
'Golf courses, particularly in developing countries, frequently force local people out of their homes and off their land, pollute the environment with toxic fertilisers and use up valuable natural resources like water. No one can justify playing a game that causes such severe problems.'
The golf-course boom in Britain has provoked protests by the Council for the Protection of Rural England, which argues that golf is often a camouflage for money-making urban development. Tourism Concern says the UK, with two million players, has more than half of Europe's 3,687 golf facilities and is a major source of golf tourism. Golf, first played on dunes in Scotland in the Middle Ages, remained a British game until the 19th century, when courses were laid in India.
North Europeans take 200,000 golf holidays in Spain alone. However, South-east Asia is also being invaded. Japanese golfers often find it cheaper to fly to Thailand and back in a day for a round of golf than pay two million yen (over pounds 11,000) for club membership at home. Despite 20 million players, Japan has only 1,850 courses.
Gen Morita, co-ordinator of GNAGA, which has 34 affiliated national organisations, told a recent conference in Thailand on 'Victims of Tourism' that golf was 'no longer promoted for the sake of the sport . . . it is nothing but big business'. The network says that in a world 'beset by serious global environmental problems there is no room for environmental destruction for the sake of a mere game'.
Tourism Concern says that throughout Asia caddies are mainly women and are expected to offer extra 'services'. In Manila, in the Philippines, commandos evicted more than 1,000 families to make way for a golf course aimed at tourists. And in Malaysia, developers planning an island golf resort at Pulau Redang want to relocate 1,000 local people because they are 'unsightly' for tourists. The development will cause severe water shortages and has destroyed mangrove forests, coral reefs and marine life.
Leading article, page 25