As a golfer there is always a part of you that dreams – it’s that spark that you need inside you to keep you going when you’re struggling out on the course: that little bit of belief that makes you trust that you really can make that next shot. But as a successful businessman, I’m also a realist. And so I also approach each shot, each new situation, each fresh challenge, with a clear head (or at least I try to), considering the arguments for doing one thing and weighing them against the arguments for doing another.
So, it is in this spirit – of the realist versus the idealist – that I have been thinking hard about the recent news that part of the historic Hong Kong Golf Club could soon be lost to developers.
A special place
The Hong Kong Golf Club means a lot to me. I love the challenge it represents as a golf course, first and foremost – but also as a place to meet and spend time with friends. It is spread over two beautiful locations, each fascinating in their own ways: at Deep Water Bay, you’ll find a short course (par 56), while at Fanling there are three 18 hole golf courses – the Eden, the Old and the New course. Fanling is also where the Hong Kong Open is held every year.
I spend a lot of time – each week, when I get the chance – on the short course at Deep Water Bay in particular. I use these weekly rounds both as an opportunity to enjoy a bit of gentle competition with my friends, but also as a great place to work on various aspects of my game and to better understand the rules of golf. The short course is particularly suited to this, because there are many areas that have questionable lies – we spend a lot of time analysing whether certain areas get free relief. I’ve also used the short course as a place where I can try to tweak those little aspects of my game that I feel could be improved.
Working on my game
For example, at Deep Water Bay we’ve recently been working on making sure that we’re lining up our tee shots directly in line with the pin. It’s distracting having someone behind you telling you whether you’ve lined up correctly – and then asking you move your feet to one side or the other – but it’s been a useful process to go through. And it’s having the time and space to work this kind of detail that has made me so fond of this course in particular.
And I’m a huge fan of the courses at Fanling too. I recently played a wonderful round of golf with some friends on a sunny Wednesday morning, where the temperature started at 9C, but rose to short sleeves weather by the 6th hole. Playing more rounds at Fanling, especially on the Old course, is one of my long-term ambitions.
The end of an era?
But it’s an ambition that may not be realised, if the developers have their way. And while the romantic golfer in me is devastated to think that part of these lovely old courses might be lost, the realist in me can also see how the authorities are singling out a 54 hole golf course. Space is at a premium in Hong Kong: the Hong Kong Golf Club is sitting on around 170 hectares of prime real estate, and it’s estimated that more than 5,000 new homes could be built on just part of the land it occupies. It also seems that under the current discussions they are only taking aim at part of the the Old Course and a car park – equivalent to about a tenth of the course. So, it won’t be the end for the Hong Kong Golf Club – but it could mark the beginning of the end.
An uncertain future
The Hong Kong Golf Club’s lease runs out in 2020, and what becomes of the Old Course remains to be seen. However if the land is sold to build flats, I hope that a good proportion of the new buildings would be affordable housing, in order to help alleviate housing issues in Hong Kong. I’d miss the challenges of the Old Course, and the time I’ve spent there with friends, but of course I can also see the benefit that new homes can bring to a Hong Kong housing shortage.
And who knows, with potentially thousands of new families living within a stone’s throw of the fantastic New and Eden courses, maybe we might even see a whole new generation of Hong Kong golf fanatics being born.