In attempts to preserve farmland and save water, China introduced several bans on the construction of golf courses since 2004. However, the number of golf courses in China has increased by more than 400 in the past seven years.
Only 10 golf courses have been approved by the Chinese government, meaning most of China's golf courses were illegally created, a golf course manager told People's Daily.
Construction of golf courses should be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission.
Developers regard golf course businesses as highly profitable and cover them by naming other business types when filing paperwork with the local government, said Yan Jinming, deputy dean of the School of Public Administration and Policy, Renmin University of China. Then they can develop real estate projects around golf courses to make more profits, industry insiders said.
Several large developers in Beijing registered clubs, greenbelts and parks in their paperwork but were running golf businesses. They did not include the word "golf" in their names or anywhere on their planning documents.
The Hainan Province, a region that is expected to turn into a major tourist destination, is an exception to the ban and has had several golf course projects approved by the government.