The Balearics' limited number of golf courses are full, unable to keep up with growing demand and now in danger of losing out to stiff competition on the mainland while the local authorities argue over increasing the number of courses. The municipality of Murcia in south east Spain, which is already home to world famous golf courses such as La Manga, this week announced plans to build 34 more courses in the region. While Murcia can boast La Manga, which is played by 140'000 golfers per year, 90 per cent of whom are wealthy foreigners, the region has only three golf clubs and a total of five golf courses. 10 new courses are already under construction and 24 are in the planning stages, but developers in Murcia have no fears of being blocked by the green lobby. The authorities want to transform Murcia into a golfers' paradise, at the expense of the Balearics unless the local government gets its finger out and releases the chains currently binding the further development of golf in the region. Murcia's Ministry for Tourism believes that the key to expanding quality tourism lies on the first tee. The results of the ministry's latest golf study has concluded that golfers spend between 180 and 240 euros (40.000 to 50.000 pesetas) per day and Murcia wants to cash in on the continuing golf boom and the region's reputation as a first class golf destination. Most of the new courses being built will be accompanied by residential developments and hotels. At the moment just five per cent of tourists to Murcia go for the golf, although a high proportion of the foreign resident community are regular golfers, similar to Majorca. Murcia's Minister for Tourism, Jose Pablo Ruiz Abellan, believes that the future of the region's tourist industry hinges on the development of quality golf courses and luxury hotels and that the two go hand in hand. Abellan knows that Murcia will never be able to match Malaga, but he said that the region's climate is suitable for golf 365 days of the year and he intends to exploit that.

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