Saudi-backed group’s plan to host event on Hong Kong’s oldest golf course for summit attendees shows economic value of site, club says

The Hong Kong Golf Club has revealed a Saudi-backed foundation has set its sights on holding an event on the city’s oldest course for attendees of an international summit, arguing the move shows the economic value of the site facing redevelopment.

Club captain Andy Kwok Wing-leung on Friday said the Future Investment Initiative Institute, organiser of the PRIORITY Asia Summit scheduled for December, was hoping to set up golfing activities for guests after the conference.

“[The institute] will write a letter to the government about organising a golf day at the Fanling golf course,” Kwok said.

“It shows the Fanling golf course plays an important role during major sports and business events in the city, demonstrating its economic value to Hong Kong.”

Golf Club caption Andy Kwok. Photo: Sam Tsang

The Riyadh-based institute in June said it would hold the summit in Hong Kong on December 7 and 8, with political and business leaders from around the world expected to gather to discuss key global issues. A list of speakers is yet to be announced on its website.

Kwok made the remarks at the second round of a Town Planning Board hearing on a government scheme to redevelop 32 hectares of land taken back from the private golf club in September.

The club was left with 140 hectares of land with two complete 18-hole courses and another 10 holes, but the captain said it was not enough for hosting international golf tournaments.

Part of Hong Kong’s Fanling golf course to open to public after government takeover

The judiciary has approved the club’s bid to challenge the government’s push for public housing on the site. The hearing is scheduled for May next year.

Authorities opened a section of the 32-hectare plot to the public as a park, before the entire site was again leased to the club in mid-September for two months to host the three-day Aramco Team Series (ATS) event, which began on Friday.

“With the Old Course, we have additional facilities that can increase our chances of winning opportunities to host international tournaments in the city,” Kwok said.

“We need to use the resources offered by the three courses to host large-scale events so that those interested can watch the tournament, while those who don’t play golf can still experience the major event.”

What next for controversial plan to build housing on Hong Kong golf course?

Hong Kong leader John Lee Ka-chiu announced that the city would host the ATS event during his trip to Saudi capital Riyadh in February. It is the first time Hong Kong is staging the tournament.

The club will also host the Hong Kong Open, another international tournament, in November before returning the 32-hectare site to the government.

The Hong Kong Golf Club has had to return 32 hectares of land to the government. Photo: May Tse

During the Town Planning Board hearing on Friday, some villagers said they were concerned about not being able to visit their ancestors’ graves on the 32-hectare site after the government took back the land.

District Planning Officer Anthony Luk Kwok-on said villagers could contact the club before it returned the site to the government in mid-November. But the club said it could only use the area for tournament-related activities and the site was still managed by the government.

Permanent Secretary for Development Doris Ho Pui-ling, also chair of the Town Planning Board, conceded the club and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department had to coordinate better.

Hong Kong court extends suspension for Fanling golf course public housing plan

The government had initially planned to build 12,000 homes on 9.5 hectares of the site, setting the rest aside for conservation and recreation, but authorities said they would amend the housing scheme to meet the conditions of environmental authorities.

Authorities have suggested changing the status of the proposed site from residential to “undetermined” before devising a new proposal.

Town planning advisers are expected to deliberate in late October and submit their final recommendations to the chief executive and his top advisers no later than the end of November.

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