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