After being partially banned in the country for being a “sport for millionaires”, China is now making golf required in schools, reportedly in an effort to teach good behavior among children.
In 2015, members of the Chinese Communist Party were prohibited from “obtaining, holding or using membership cards for gyms, clubs, golf clubs, or various other types of consumer cards, or entering private clubs.”
According to BBC, the directive was part of China’s anti-corruption campaign that went against what the ruling party deemed to be displays of extravagance. Earlier this year, 111 courses were shut down by the government, reportedly in an effort to conserve water and land, Xinhua reported.
Still, the sport has become popular among the younger generation, with a fresh batch of teenage players making a name for themselves in major tournaments.
With the regulation not being strictly implemented, golf continues to become a growing industry in China, with numerous golf courses being established throughout the country. As access to the courses increased, interest in the sport also continued to grow among rich families in urban areas.
Last year, a state school in Shanghai’s commercial center was the first to include compulsory golf lessons in its curriculum. According to the school’s headmaster, school kids aged 7 and 8 were given “an important social skill for them to step towards international society.”
More and more schools, including those outside opulent Chinese cities, have began providing compulsory golf classes for their students as well.
Ji Yankun, the headmistress of Jingwulu Primary School in Jinan, in the eastern Shandong Province told The Telegraph in an interview that the sport is being taught to “foster children’s strong determination, self-discipline, and manners.”
“I don’t think I am being over dramatic in calling it a gentleman’s sport, as there is so much good etiquette involved,” she was quoted as saying.
Shandong Gold Golf Club, which provided coaches to train 9-year-old pupils, is also in talks with four other schools in a bid to provide similar training across the province.
“Many children have fallen in love with the sport, which has been called ‘the green opium,’” said Jiang Chunqiu of Shandong Gold.
The phrase “the green opium” is commonly used in China portraying the sport as a highly enjoyable, yet dangerous foreign import.
“It is an elegant sport, and we want to train the child’s self-discipline to make them a gentleman or gentlewomen,” Jiang said, noting that before the lessons begin, the children were required to learn the sport’s “manner requirements.”
“They must apologize if they are late – even if it is less than five minutes,” she said. “And we demand that they behave themselves at all times during the competition.”
While the Chinese educational system is known to focus heavily on academics, there is a gradual shift to include activities that are “perceived to influence temperament and behavior.”
Chinese parents have been spending more on extracurricular lessons for their children to engage in activities such as music, ballet or golf.