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Hong Kong to host LIV Golf League event next year, club confirms, while calling for site taken back by authorities to be used for sport again

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The private Hong Kong Golf Club has confirmed it will host a Saudi-backed tournament next year, as it called on the government to allow people to play the sport on a section of the city’s oldest course now used as a public park.

Club captain Andy Kwok Wing-leung issued the call on Tuesday as he hailed local golfers’ unprecedented success after winning gold and bronze medals at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Kwok was referring to Taichi Kho’s victory in the individual men’s golf on Sunday, before the gold medallist joined Matthew Cheung, Jason Hak and Terrence Ng in taking home bronze in the team category.

“Given the good result, we hope that the government can provide better support. We don’t expect the government to build more world-class golf courses,” Kwok said. “We just hope the government does not take away golf courses.”

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Kwok also confirmed Hong Kong would be one of the locations for the LIV Golf League tournament next March, as exclusively reported by the Post last month, describing the event as a platform for showcasing the city’s soft power. Arrangements for the event were still being discussed with authorities, he added.

Organisers earlier said the tournament could generate millions of dollars in economic benefits.

Kwok made the remarks at a second round of Town Planning Board hearings on a government plan to redevelop 32 hectares (79 acres) of land taken back from the club’s Old Course in Fanling.

Andy Kwok, captain of the Hong Kong Golf Club, has raised concerns about whether authorities can properly maintain land taken back from the organisation. Photo: Jonathan Wong

A month earlier, authorities set aside part of the land as a public park where visitors can roam the grounds and take their dogs for walks.

“We have a world-class golf course but it is only used as a public park. What is the point? It has also caused unnecessary negative effects on the training of the Hong Kong national team,” Kwok said.

While the club still has two complete 18-hole courses and a 10-hole one spanning 140 hectares, Kwok said the group had experienced a 20 per cent drop in available golf event days and elite training time after authorities took back the 32 hectares.

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 the scheme is set to be amended by next year to meet conditions from environmental authorities.

The government has suggested changing the status of the proposed site from residential to “undetermined”, before devising a new plan.

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Two separate hearings will be held this week, with town planning advisers expected to submit their final recommendations in late October.

But the club has expressed dissatisfaction with the previous housing proposal and has also urged authorities to use the 32 hectares as a public golf course that can benefit everyone and help the local development of the sport.

Authorities have leased the land to the club since mid-September to allow the organisation to host another two international golf tournaments, the Aramco Team Series and the Hong Kong Open. The lease ends in the middle of November.

Kwok said the short-term leasing arrangement was “feasible”, but raised concerns over whether the site could be properly maintained by the government.

The club had maintained turf at the site for free since September, which could potentially cost it a monthly six-digit figure, he added.

Authorities have opened a public park on part of the land taken back from the golf club. Photo: Jelly Tse

Kwon added that authorities had turned to the club for help clearing floodwater and saving several dozen Chinese Swamp Cypress trees at the site after Hong Kong was struck by a “once-in-500-years” rainstorm on September 8.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department on Tuesday evening said it had not received a leasing application from the club to host the LIV golf tournament, adding any such request would be processed in accordance with the existing mechanisms and the needs of the match.

The department also said it had not sought help from the club to clear the floodwater last month, and the sports organisation had performed the works to prepare for a match.

Planning authorities had earlier said it was reasonable for the government to seek help given the extremely rare rainfall and stressed that officials were capable of maintaining and operating the course as a public park.

It also noted that sites marked “undetermined” could still be used for temporary functions, but described setting the land aside for certain short-term ventures, such as temporary housing, as “too far-fetched”.

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Separately, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu maintained the government would stand by its promise to lend the site out for events and offer of help to organisers, regardless of the Town Planning Board’s final decision.

“The government’s position is very clear. Whatever will happen with the final decision of the Town Planning Board, we have made a promise that the part of the land that has been taken back by the Hong Kong government will be lent to organisers of events and [we] will also give assistance to organisers so as to ensure that events can take place at the golf course,” he said.

“We’ve made that commitment, so competition events can happen.”

The city’s leader also congratulated Kho on his historic gold medal win at the Hangzhou Asian Games. The golfer had spoken against the government’s redevelopment plan at a meeting of the board in June.

Additional reporting by Kahon Chan

Article was originally published from here

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