China shuts down 111 golf courses as it continues its assault on 'sport for millionaires'

China has made headlines for big spending in football but golf is enduring a sustained crackdown from the government

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The Independent Online

Eye-watering big-money transfers have made China one of the most talked-about sporting destinations over the past year as European clubs look to hold onto their top talent amid a landgrab from the Chinese Super League. 

But while these well-bankrolled clubs are on a government-promoted transfer binge to promote growth, some other mainstream sports are receiving quite the opposite sort of treatment. 

Indeed, China has launched a renewed crackdown on golf, closing 111 courses and telling members of the ruling Communist Party to stay off the links in an effort to conserve water and land. 

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Sunday the courses were closed for improperly using groundwater, arable land or land in nature reserves, and it said authorities have imposed restrictions on 65 more courses. 

How this all chimes with asking football club owners to unload nine-figure sums on foreign footballers is unclear, but the wealth of its billionaires is clearly more expendable to China's governing elite than its green expanses.

Technically, China banned the development of new golf courses in 2004, when it had fewer than 200. The ban was meant to conserve farmland and water supplies but the number in operation has more than tripled since.

Developers build courses under the guise of parks or other projects, often with approval of local officials, but the ruling Communist Party are cottoning on and looking to crack down.

The party has fired local leaders for accepting free rounds.

One of China's most famous leaders, Mao Tse Tung, christened golf a "sport for millionaires" and current leader Xi Jinping has continued the assault on the sport as part of a crackdown on corruption and excess in the country's growing middle class.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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