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Golfing at the China Country Club

Posted by on May 26, 2012

Hello Readers! The ‘ole fundraising thermometer for my book project is creeping up near the half-way point. That’s a good thing, too, because the clock has ticked past the half-way point of my 30 day pledge drive! If you haven’t had the chance to check out the video, “like” the project, or donate, please take a minute to do so here. I sure would love to get my book about my year in China published; I’d sure like to give you a copy for donating; )


I never imagined I’d play golf in China, but Life had other ideas. Here’s a nice seasonal read for all you drivin’, chippin’, puttin’ people out there. And if you’re not a golfer, don’t feel out of place when reading this article. For this was just another interesting look at something familiar, but done with a Chinese twist. Pull up a chair (I reckon you already are seated) and come play 18 with me, or at least enjoy the 19th by reading this post.

One of my students to whom I taught English privately, was a 12-year-old manboy with the body of an adult and played golf like a champ—literally the youth golf champ in China. His English name was Michael. For he, like many in China, liked Michael Jackson. His actual name was Zhou Zi Qian.

One day, his parents treated us to a round of 18 at Zhuhai’s nicest course, so off Michael and I went to experience a good walk spoiled and play some golf.

We arrived on a story-book beautiful morning at the fancy-schmancy Lakewood Golf Club. Yep, sounds like a golf course to me—sort of like how nursing homes are always “sunny” and “happy”. The day was gorgeous with me getting just a tad sunburned—perfect, just the way I like my marshmallows.

Speaking of marshmallows, a huge pop-art golf ball stood out at the end of the driveway of this lovely complex:

The first two characters say “Zhuhai”. Can anyone else out there read the rest?

Turning in to the drive, we drove under a huge gateway with Chinese-style tiled roof.

Here was Michael and I:

Pulling up to the clubhouse, caddies came out to greet us and took our clubs. This was the first Chinese twist of the day: the caddies were all women.

Most looked to be in their 20’s and 30’s. All wore pink zip-up sweaters jackets with flannel collars and white helmets. I got this model’s pose:


Inside the clubhouse was as you might imagine any fancy country club: chandeliers, shiny tiled floors, nice woodwork around the windows, and stone columns:

To the right, the check-in counter resembled that of a hotel. To the pretty, long-haired woman Michael handed 600RMB–about $95. (That was just for me as Michael was already a member.)

First, we had to wait for this slow poke.

Oh well. If I got bored, I could always look up:


Next, it was off to the locker room, where the uniforms of hierarchy are replaced with the evening of nudity.

Plus, I had a reminder that these fancy-pants folks still apparently need a tip or two when it comes to Western toileting:

'Oh, now I get it!'

Okay, now let’s get outside and hit some balls.

Right, guys?

'You didn't squat on top of the thing, did ya?'


Next were greeted once again by caddies–the two who would accompany us today. One looked about 30 with glasses and a conservative demeanor; the other gal, maybe 23, was more outgoing:

Each grabbed our bag and were there for our every need: bringing you your club, cleaning the ball, driving the cart, and doing a heck of job lining up puts. Once I disagreed and it cost me, my ball arching on the green in a way I didn’t foresee…but the gal on the right did.

Caddying myself some years back, I recall the manner in which we would shuffle along, some of us looking like we just rolled out of bed. Like I’d seen in other areas of customer service throughout my year in China, the level of it there was upped a notch or two.

But like the Chinese college and the factory I visited, this course was also a notch below the pristine greenery at country clubs in Minnesota. China just doesn’t do nature as well as other places. Nonetheless, the palm trees lining the fairways, the lush hills in the background framing the course, and hedges dividing it up made for a serene setting that nicely countered the noisy city:


Wrapping up the first nine holes, a pond lay in front of the clubhouse which sat atop the raised ground beyond the pond. On the grassy incline were hedged Chinese characters:



Overall, the dress, the etiquette, the manner of the other players (all of whom were middle aged men) and the feel of the course was strikingly similar to what I was used to at any nice golf course. So the million dollar question was: is this a good example of Chinese imitation of a Western experience? The Chinese, I had found, adored Western fashion, music, athletes, and pastimes. Or was it a statement about the way humans from opposite ends of the world like to do things in the same ways?

Either way, the similarity of it had me forget for a moment that I was playing golf at a China. But when I did awake to that novel fact, it was obvious, because everyone from the ground crew to the caddies to the players were Chinese. One race there, but social classes are still in place. And this was most clear at the end of the day when I walked to the final tee.

To the left side of the tee box, just off the course grounds beyond the cheap, farm-like wire fence, lay a shelter with tables of inventory underneath.

The ramshackle nature of the set up contrasted the golf course like a beggar outside of Macy’s. But consistent to the entrepreneurial spirit I saw in this region of the world, these folks had set up a golf ball store. I assume they found errant balls in the rough and sold them to needy golfers here on the 18th after a bad day.

They tried to get my attention; I actually gave them more than they wanted. Boy, were they jumpy when I approached with my camera. I was worried when I took a snap that they might not give me my change when a buying a few balls off them.

They probably chilled in a legal grey-area like so many in China do. The portable food vendors back in town are all illegal, but they sell regardless–until the authorities come around, and then it’s time to high-tail. At the golf course, a security guard stood near that 18th tee box, looking out perhaps to make sure these ball-sellers didn’t solicit onto the course property. I suspect as long as they remained behind the fence, they were okay.

Spending all day on this course, they were a reminder of the poverty in China, the impoverished attempts to get some of that trickle-down action, and the line that divides them–literally–right there at that wire fence.

Much is said about your world even when you try to escape with a day at the links.

The greens were fast, the wind gusty.
My first swings of the year were rusty.

keep that elbow straight,


And if so moved, please check out my book project here

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