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Bogey on your tail: Is this for real?

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Serious development is on the cards at Discovery Bay Golf Club. Peter Sherwood heads onto the fairway to find out more.

News that the government is taking over a chunk of prestigious Hong Kong Golf Club (Fanling) to build flats for 6,000 people has proved inspirational. Discussions are now underway for a world first (and probably last) in residential golf resorts; squeezing the dimensions of the Discovery Bay course to integrate 1,000 luxury apartments and townhouses – into the playing areas. And a proposed addition to the existing clubhouse; a 38-storey residential and shopping complex with a multi-level driving range. They say it’s a win-win. But apart from the developer, who is it that wins exactly?

“Let’s face it, golf is a waste of time and land, but a lot of big business types like to play,” a government spokesperson explains. “We’ll give planning approval to dramatically reduce the width of the fairways, and make it a painfully difficult course to play. The game is all about pointless hardship and irritation anyway, so the more exasperating the better.”

Imagine, luxury homes lining infuriatingly narrow fairways; greens the size of a Chinese banquet table surrounded by low-rise housing. But golfers are a weird and well-heeled breed. They will pay a fortune to try and overcome ridiculous hazards. They call it ‘the challenge renewed,’ which means they’ll return again and again, going crazy because it’s never possible to be adequately rewarded.

No instant gratification, and your score is never good enough. Golf is a bit like playing fruit machines, but with tiresome walking and the chance to flail hopelessly with a steel rod thrown in.

What the residents say

Australian-born DB resident and psychotherapist Bruce Beer has this to say: “Hey, it makes sense. Why not make a spectacularly peculiar game a lot sillier? Millions of weekend Don Quixotes and their Sancho Panza caddies tilting at metaphorical windmills in a vainglorious attempt to find their inner Tiger Woods. Only the uncommonly rich and hopeful would sign up for an expensive lifetime bashing a little white ball through the shrubbery, so as to end up terminally depressed and headed for the bar.

“If you ask me, extreme disappointment with drinks comes faster, and cheaper, in a pub,” Bruce adds. “No long, sweaty hikes, no barriers to progress, and no frustration.”

Visiting Scottish golf pro Jimmy McDivot is, however, appalled at the idea. “I’m appalled,” he says emphatically. “Removing natural hazards, such as sand bunkers and lakes, to replace them with houses is absurd. Playing out of bounds from some bloke’s backyard Jacuzzi is a crass and objectionable departure from the finest traditions of the royal and ancient game.”

But aren’t ponds and sand traps unnatural natural hazards? And why would using a pitching wedge to hit a ball over a townhouse be a problem? This remark led Jimmy to threaten me with a three-wood and an unseemly outburst in the Glaswegian vernacular. He remains firmly appalled.

However, one club member I approached says that the development could be a good thing, in that it couldn’t make his golfing much worse. “I joined Discovery Bay Golf Club 30 years ago and have played the course thousands of times. You’d think that after all that practice, I’d be getting better but no, I get worse. Just an occasional win.” A bit like playing fruit machines? Happy April Fool’s Day.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 19 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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