Top 10 At SC.jpg

Top 10 SC

#7 The One That Got Away
 Panoramic View of Qizi Bay, Hainan Island, China

Panoramic View of Qizi Bay, Hainan Island, China

Qizi Bay (pronounced "cheesy" bay, I'm not kidding) was a once in a lifetime site located on the western coast of Hainan Island, China. Although Hainan has a subtropical climate, the west coast is fairly dry and would have led to a great playing surface compared with the other courses on the Island as they must deal with heavy amounts of rainfall throughout the year. The site was an absolute wonder of not only beautiful sand dunes but rock formations, mountains backdrops, ocean views, and spectacular native vegetation. Massive wild pineapple "trees", native grasses, ferns, pine scrub and plenty of cactus added a unique character to the property 

 Site photo of the proposed clubhouse location and stream that runs through the property

Site photo of the proposed clubhouse location and stream that runs through the property

I made my first visit to the site in February of 2010 with Brian Curley to explore the site before he started working on a routing plan. The boundaries were vaguely defined, but the client was leaning toward a 36 hole golf resort. Everyone was excited about the potential of this golf course and we even made a trip to Bandon Dunes the following summer with our potential shaper to get a better idea on how to properly handle the sandy, oceanside terrain. Over the coming months we made follow up visits to walk various routing concepts, attending meetings with land planners and the ownership. Eventually the owner brought a Club Pro and GM on board to help the process along as we were finalizing the design. A year went by, then two, then three, I would sometime pass the GM walking down the street on my way to Starbucks (there was no Starbucks on the Island when this project started) where I was always met with a friendly smile, but over time a look of disappointment started to show through as we both realized this course would never be. 

 

 

 

 

 Proposed 36 hole routing and land plan for Qizi Bay

Proposed 36 hole routing and land plan for Qizi Bay

 Design Concept for the courses at Qizi Bay.

Design Concept for the courses at Qizi Bay.

A gallery of various site photos and vegetation at Qizi Bay

The most disappointing part of my story is not that  Qizi Bay failed to get off the ground, it is that one golf courses did start, and finish. The site of this golf course was right next door, the land was not  as dramatic but it was a pure sand base with the same great vegetation. Unfortunately the course was not properly designed or constructed. From my understanding, a local Chinese contractor had built the golf course in-house and without a proper golf course architect, and it shows. Unfortunately, a very basic golf course built, it's artificial ponds littered the terrain, coming into play on 8 holes, catch basins were installed throughout the fairways and containment mounding was pushed up on the edges of play, disrupting the natural flow of the land. The golf course looked as though it were built from a set of computer drawings, with little regard to the site. The end result can be seen in the photos below and stands in stark contrast to the golf courses we had planned to build, a golf course with soul, with attention to the finest of details and with the utmost care in preserving the existing nature of the land. 

 Construction photo of the "other" Qizi Bay Golf Course

Construction photo of the "other" Qizi Bay Golf Course

 Finished photos of the course

Finished photos of the course

 Aerial View of the "other" course featuring numerous lakes and cookie cutter bunkering

Aerial View of the "other" course featuring numerous lakes and cookie cutter bunkering

Ryan FarrowComment
#8 Photographing Golf Courses

Before working at Schmidt-Curley I had already developed a keen interest in photography. When I first picked up a camera, I always felt the need to try something different, to get lower or climb higher in search of a new perspective. To this day I am still perplexed by the numerous photos of golf holes from the tee box, often with an uninteresting foreground showcasing a sea of green and a cart path in clear view. I always challenge myself to not only step away from the tee box, but in the case of Stone Forest, to climb the jagged rock formations in search of the best angle, one that I was certain no one else would find. 

It is my number one goal to capture the essence of the design when shooting a new golf course. Sometimes it takes a few holes to find the answer but I approach each shoot with the goal of finding some features that separate the golf course course from your run of the mill design. When taking photos I always fall back to my favorite rule, is it interesting? If the answer is no, then I either scrap the photo or search for something different, a new angle, a different foreground, or perhaps come back at a different time of day in search of interesting shadows. 

As some of you may know, China presents its own unique challenge for photographers. Dealing with smog and haze was a constant problem and we would try our best to time a photography trip with a period of good weather. It did not always work out and due to some time restraints I would often shoot a golf course over a one or two day time frame and pray for one morning or evening with good light. On top of that, I was often presented golf courses that were recently finished, still a little rough around the edges and with spotty conditioning. Sometimes I had to work with backdrops of highrise construction or a mass of freshly planted trees (propped up with wooden stakes to keep them standing upright in the wind) all while doing my best to evade sprinkler heads that would turn on at the most inopportune times. Although I would prefer not to use Photoshop, my skills with the program were extremely valuable when trying to capture some early golf course shots. A few clicks of a button and the stakes were erased, the water was turned off, and the fresh divot, replaced.

While in China I had the pleasure of accompanying some professional photographers around our golf courses, notably John Henebry and Tom Breazeale. They each had their own unique style of shooting. So much so, that at times I could look in a magazine and make a fairly accurate guess as to which photographer was responsible for the photo. After my time spent in China, I look back at the photos I captured as a starting point and I look forward to digging deeper into the craft, honing my skills and seeking out beautiful golf landscapes to capture. Below are a few galleries of photography trips I made while working in China. 

Mission Hills Haikou Gallery

Stone Forest Gallery

Clearwater Bay & Dragon Valley Gallery 

Ryan FarrowComment
#9 Visiting & Playing New Courses

I was fortunate enough to be located in a hotbed of activity on Hainan Island. While Schmidt-Curley was working on a 22 course resort for Mission Hills (later reduced to 10) there was even more work on the Island with stunning seaside courses being constructed by Coore & Crenshaw, Tom Doak, and a 36 hole project by Tom Weiskopf. Schmidt-Curley also had numerous projects in the design and construction phase (in addition to the Mission Hills project) with a variety of courses on and off the Island. I will go through some of these projects in detail throughout the series.

The 17th hole under construction on the West course of The Dunes at Shenzhou 

One of the first discovery trips I made in China was a visit to the Tom Weiskopf designed, Dunes at Shenzhou Peninsula in 2009. I was fortunate to see the course under construction where I was able to gain an understanding of how much of the site was manipulated and how uninteresting the property was in its original form as an old fish farming village with little to no elevation change. When you work in sand the possibilities for a creative design are pretty much limitless but it sure helps when the views and rock formations you have to work with are absolutely breathtaking. The team did a great job restoring native plants and grasses to an intricate system of faux dunes, we would later use a similar palette of plant life at Mission Hills Haikou to create a sandy dunescape on one of our 10 courses. This golf course is an absolute must see for anyone visiting Hainan Island.

The 17th hole grassed and open for play in 2010

Here is a shot of the 16th hole on the East Course

During the 2011 Chinese New Year a few of us on the Schmidt-Curley team made a golf trip to Kunming to play the reigning #1 course in China, Spring City and to visit a few of the Schmidt-Curley courses under construction. Spring City  is a 36 hole resort and the old dog so to speak in the Chinese golf industry, the conditioning is always top notch as the area's location and elevation made for spring like weather year round. 

One of my tee shots on the Mountain Course at Spring City

 A shot of the bunkering on the Mountain course at Spring City. 

A shot of the bunkering on the Mountain course at Spring City. 

Other stops made on our trip included a few rounds at the recently opened, 54 hole, Stone Forest International Country Club and construction visits to Yulong Bay, Jiadali, and Sun Hill golf projects. All four of these courses faced some opposition from the government after they reinforced a moratorium on golf development. Jiadali has still not finished construction but it looks like the other 3 projects have survived, for now.  Even with very serious environmental controls, such as capturing and re-using all on site water and the installation of impermeable liners underneath turf (to prevent chemicals from entering the groundwater), some holes still needed to shifted away from the lake shoreline at Sun Hill to meet the government's demands. Meanwhile, sewage and chemical runoff from nearby farmland seems to be ignored.   

The 16th hole at Shanqin Bay under construction

Another highlight of my golf travels back on Hainan Island was a visit to the Coore & Crenshaw designed Shanqin Bay, which was under construction at the time. No machines were running and their shapers were holed up on site as they faced numerous delays that anybody working in China would understand.  I made a follow up visit a year or two later to play the golf course with Brian Curley and Travelin' Joe Passov. I knew there was huge potential for this course to become one of the best in China when I made my first site visit, the rolling topography and brilliant routing that plays along the cliff tops overlooking the south china sea and tumbles down to the beach and back up again is one of a kind in China. The team did a great job incorporating native plant materials on their bunker edges (like wild pineapple), and preserved old rock walls giving the course a unique and vintage character.

The short, 150 yard 8th hole at Shanqin Bay, South China Sea in the backdrop

Despite its $1,000,000 membership fee there are always a few gentle reminders of one's humble beginnings in China.

Final grassing at Tom Doak's Simapo Island in Hainan, China. 

A few more highlights of my golf travels in China were playing some of the Schmidt-Curley designed courses on the Island like, Agile Clearwater Bay, Sanya Dragon Valley, White Stone Hot Spring Resort and a preview round at Simapo Island with some old work mates at Renaissance Golf Design. Although the golf course is currently shut down by the Chinese government it was great catching up with some of the guys I had met almost 6 years earlier while working as a construction intern in Montana. Now here we were on the other side of the globe, practically working next door. 

Ryan FarrowComment
#10 The Golf Tournaments

As we move forward to 2017, I wanted to take some time and reflect over the 6+ years I spent working for Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt. Most of my time was spent in China, living on the tropical island of Hainan and working on various projects throughout mainland China. I want to recap some of the activities and projects I worked on during this time.

Michael Phelps and Lorena Ochoa walking past the 10th tee

First up is having a front row seat to various golf tournaments hosted by the Mission Hills Group in Hainan and Shenzhen, China. We worked hard getting the Blackstone course up to shape and ready for its first tournament, a celebrity Pro-AM called The Star Trophy. In the lead up to the event, Greg Norman was brought on board as a consultant to help set up an event that had professionals from the LPGA and PGA tours competing against one another in a winner take all format. I accompanied Mr. Norman on a few visits to help ensure the course would prove fair for both sexes. Some minor tweaks were made and in the end, Lorena Ochoa came out on top over Colin Montgomery after a controversial ruling on the 17th hole. Ochoa walked away with $1.28 million, while Monty walked away empty handed.

The 18th Hole on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Haikou

The Blackstone course would play host to the 56th World Cup of Golf the following year and I would spend another Thanksgiving in China, instead of calling up hotels in search of a turkey dinner, I spent the night at Mission Hills and they played a fine host to the U.S. team and eventual winners, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland. Camilo Villegas was also invited and after about 10-15 minutes of karaoke, they finally convinced him to sing happy birthday to one of the staff. Needless to say, I will never have a thanksgiving quite like that one.

 On the bag and checking yardages into the par 3 8th.

On the bag and checking yardages into the par 3 8th.

In 2012 I would pick up the bag for the first time and serve as caddy for the future 2014 Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley. It was my first time on the bag, ever, and all I had to do was keep up and shut up. Yao Ming also made a supersized appearance and I was grouped with the Brazilian football legend, Ronaldo in our second round pairing. The Blackstone course hosted one more event while I was still in China, a match between Tiger and Rory that turned into a chaotic scene as thousands of spectators stormed the fairways in search of a good spot to watch the next shot. The second and third courses at the resort played host to a few Ladies European tour events and I was able to squeeze in a few days to see the Schmidt-Curley/Olazabal designed course play host to the 2012 WGC Champions event in Shenzhen.

*Click on any image to view full screen.

Ryan FarrowComment