More than 300 unhappy golfers in Hong Kong are seeking further compensation from China Travel International Investment, which abruptly closed its Shenzhen golf course last weekend.
The golfers – mostly Hong Kong locals but also Koreans, Malaysians and other Asians – are seeking advice from local legislators to protect their rights against China’s largest travel agency.
The row involves the CTS Tycoon (Shenzhen) Golf Club, which issued a notice to all members on November 1 that it would close all facilities on Monday – because it was asked to shut by Shenzen’s Bao’an District Government to be part of a zone protecting the source of drinking water in Tiegang reservoir.
The company first received a notice ordering it to close in January 2015 but said it had tried to meet the government’s requirements. The closure was part of nationwide measures launched in 2004 to reduce the number of golf courses around the country.
Over the past six years, some 176 out of the 683 golf courses in China have been closed down, while the remaining 507 were ordered to undertake changes to meet environmental requirements, the Ministry of Land and Resources said in a statement in January this year.
In a public announcement, China CTS – a Hong Kong-listed company – said there no financial loss would be incurred by the move because it provided an opportunity for further development at the site.
However, its members suffered losses. Aside from the need to find a new golf course, some also suffered financial losses.
One man said he acquired membership in 2011 for nearly HK$300,000 (US$38,468), which is about half the current secondary market price. However, he only received HK$50,000 in compensation, the original price of membership back in the early 90s.
“This is ridiculous,” one said, on condition of anonymity. “Membership is like property, and the compensation for that should be done at the market price, not cost.
“We want to play golf but if we cannot play golf, we need reasonable compensation, not just a refund. The refund is not enough to buy a new golf [club] membership.”
The cost of golf club membership has risen steadily over the past 20 years, thanks to the Pearl River Delta’s booming economy. Improved infrastructure such as the high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, plus the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, will cut travel time and allow even more golfers to spend the weekend or enjoy a holiday in mainland China.
Golfers put their unhappy messages on Facebook and WeChat but they have not been able to talk to the club’s management to express their disappointment over the closure of the 27-hole course.
They feel they have been treated unfairly because the club appears to have accepted compensation for shutting down, but its managers have not given enough back to its members.
Last year, the club’s revenue dropped 9% to HK$100 million, according to the company’s annual report. That was mainly due to the district government’s request for the course to close because it was part of a water protection zone. The number of golfers also dropped 25%, as of the end of 2016.