#7 The One That Got Away
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
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.
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.