A parking lot full of Mercedes and BMWs. Multimillion-dollar lakeside homes. Immaculately manicured fairways and greens. An exclusive clubhouse with a swanky restaurant and bar. A pro shop selling overpriced shirts and hats.
It could have been any luxurious golf club in the U.S., but this one was in Zhengzhou, capital of one of China’s poorest provinces.
On Sunday, my friend Matt and I got to see how some of China’s nouveau riche spend their leisure time when we played a round at Jinsha Lake Golf Club. It’s the same place where Rory Mcllroy beat Tigers Woods in their one-on-one “Duel at Jinsha Lake’’ in 2012.
Rory and Tiger were followed around the course by a pack of photo-snapping fans. We were accompanied by two patient caddies who spent most of their time searching for our wayward shots.
Matt and I lost a lot of balls and drank a lot of beer as we hacked our way around the challenging par-72 course on a rare sunny day in Zhengzhou. The highlight was both of us landing our tee shots on the island green at the par-3 17th, an improbable result considering that on previous holes with aquatic hazards our balls had found the water faster than Michael Phelps.
After our round, we stopped by the on-site real-estate office where dozens of people were waiting to learn more about the luxury homes and apartments currently under construction at the club. The castle-like villas cost from $2 million to $17 million. Henan may be a poor province, but like the rest of China it’s producing mega-rich people at an astonishing rate.
Golf at Jinsha Lake isn’t cheap, either. As non-club members playing on a weekend, it cost us $208 apiece for 18 holes. Including club and cart rentals, caddy fees, drinks and hitting a bucket of balls on the driving range, our total bill came to $628.
I felt decadent spending that much money on golf, especially in a place like Zhengzhou, where most people don’t make that much in a month. But since decadence is an undeniable part of modern China, let’s just say I was broadening my horizons.
Speaking of conspicuous consumption, luxury-car dealers were displaying some of their latest models at the club. A Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Aston Martin were showcased on the grounds, though none of them had price tags. I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.