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Has China declared war on golf?
02:13 - Source: CNN

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Chinese Communist Party rules ban members from extravagances -- including golf memberships

Ban is part of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption

Beijing CNN  — 

It looks like it’s time for China’s 88 million Party members to pack away their clubs.

The Communist Party of China has published a new set of rules on Party conduct, and golf is – once again – in the cross hairs of the country’s moral guardians.

The new guidelines specify a number of acts to be punished – including using public funds to play golf, purchasing public-use vehicles beyond quotas, and overspending on meals and overseas trips.

Specifically mentioning golf and other private clubs, Article 17 bans cadres from using public funds to buy golf club memberships, or accepting such memberships as gifts. With golf club membership fees running to thousands of dollars a year – far exceeding most officials or party members’ incomes – the rule effectively amounts to a ban.

According to party analysts quoted in state media, the new guidelines – intended to codify existing regulations – were clarified partially because many penalties within the party are falling behind the country’s anti-corruption momentum.

‘Moral ethical code’

A previous eight-article regulation “mainly concerns itself with a moral ethical code that members must abide by,” Chinese state media said. It was an addition to a much wider-ranging set of rules published in 2010.

The updates were published ahead of top-level Party meetings to be held next week.

In March, Chinese authorities announced the closure of 66 “illegal” golf courses – roughly 10% of all courses in the country – in an apparent attempt to start enforcing a long-ignored ban on golf-related construction.

Former Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong banned golf when he took power in 1949, denouncing it as a “sport for millionaires,” according to Dan Washburn, author of “The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream.”

“Even after China opened up and golf re-emerged in the mid-1980s, largely as a way to attract foreign investment, the sport was saddled with serious image problems,” Washburn wrote in an article for CNNMoney in April.

The current de facto ban is consistent with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent anti-corruption campaign. Over the last two years, Xi’s investigators have targeted thousands of government officials, with dozens of high-ranking “tigers” and hundreds of lowly “flies” convicted for corruption.

CNN’s Shen Lu in Beijing contributed to this report.