Golf Travel: New Academies & Spectacular Course Renovations in China

Yangtze Dunes (Photo by Gary Lisbon)

After a long run of expansion and development the Chinese golf market went fairly quiet in the last couple of years. Most of that was based on a decree by the Chinese Communist party in late 2015 banning its members from joining golf courses in what they called an anti-corruption crackdown. It was also followed by a movement by the government in 2017 that closed more than 110 courses based to water use and environmental concerns.

The general perception from those outside the country was that golf was in a stall, or even a decline in the world’s most populous country, but that is not the reality. The increasing wealth of the upper class is still fueling projects in the golf segment, with a couple of those coming to light this week.

Sure, there is not a lot of golf tourists jetting over to Asia to enjoy the Chinese properties but the market continues to grow in a time when other parts of the world are not experiencing the same.

The Chinese golf market appears to be open for business and two nuggets that came to light his week should help that along.

PGA of America Opens Academies At Mission Hills China

The PGA of America has leaped into a new multi-year partnership with the China’s Mission Hills Group and Pacific Pine Sports Group.

The agreement will see them establish three PGA Golf Academies within the Mission Hills properties that now encompass some 22 golf courses in two locations.

Two PGA of America Academies will be established at the Mission Hills Shenzhen resort in southern China and a third academy will be at the Mission Hills Haikou resort on Hainan Island.

“China represents a tremendous growth opportunity for the game of golf,” said Arjun Chowdri, PGA of America Senior Director for Global and Corporate Strategy. “We will continue to position PGA of America Members at the forefront in driving this growth.  Mission Hills has shown an enduring commitment to the game, and it is our shared values that will allow us to make a true impact on the future of the game in China.”

“Since the reintroduction of golf to the Olympics and China’s bronze-medal success through Feng Shanshan, Mission Hills is committed to building on our legacy of providing world-class instruction, and now, bringing the ultimate in global teaching standards to golfers in China,” said Tenniel Chu, Group Vice Chairman of Mission Hills. “With the PGA of America choosing Mission Hills for the PGA’s first academy in China, we can strive for more medals for the national team, but also continue to support the local golf industry, through coach education and management training, for a new generation of Chinese teaching professionals.”

Operation of the academies will be handled by PGA of America member Patrick Quernemoen.

Mission Hills is coming off a 7th winning year as the “Best Resort in Asia-Pacific” at the IAGTO annual awards.

Yangtze Dunes (Photo: Gary Lisbon)

Yangtze Dunes Re-Opens After Renovation

In other development news, golf architecture fans will likely be going wild after getting a look at the newly renovated Yangtze Dunes course at Lanhai Inernational Country Club.

The remarkable transformation under the guidance of architects at (OCCM) Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (yes, that’s 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy) is being touted as the first “proper” links on the Asian mainland.

Among the changes at the course, which was officially re-opened in late October, involved the removal of no less than eight kilometres of concrete cart paths.

The immediate appeal of the new look was verified during the week of the WGC-HSBC in Shanghai at the Sheshan Golf Club when various tour pros competing came across town to walk or play the course at the invitation of Ogilvy.

With the WGC-HSBC contract at Sheshan expiring there seems to be some hints that the event may have a look at Yangtze Dunes as a possible venue. That could make for quite a spectacle.

“While certainly long enough to test the best tour players in the world, the real interest at Yangtze Dunes lies in the strategy of the holes and the great variety of shots required to score well,” says Ogilvy. “While length is certainly rewarded here, success will come only to those with the imagination to find the best way around, avoiding the worst of the hazards and leaving the best angles.

“Modern courses, from a professional perspective, can get one-dimensional, rewarding power over all else. Lanhai is a test with more far more nuance.”

OCCM partner Ashley Mead says the course is a clear departure from the golf courses that have been offered in China to date.

“The mere fact that we’ve created a true links track at Yangtze Dunes makes it stand out from nearly every golf course that currently exists in Asia,” Mead said. “For whatever reason — cultural or climatic — Asian developers have not chosen to build many courses in the links tradition.

The move to create a design barren of trees, with immense contours, and covered in scrub was aided by the unique property on which the course lies.

“As a firm, we’re deeply committed to designing golf courses that represent the local environment. And here’s a relevant fact: Chongming is the largest alluvial island in the world — alluvial being a fancy way of describing sand islands formed by river currents. So, we’re in China, on a giant sand bar in the middle of the mighty Yangtze River, just northeast of Shanghai, in the shadow of the towering Yangtze River Bridge. This site was crying out for a full-on links and we’re very pleased Yangtze Dunes so strongly accentuates this place and culture.”

For a more three dimensional look at the Yangtze Dunes course check out the promotional video by AirSwing.

1 Comment on Golf Travel: New Academies & Spectacular Course Renovations in China

  1. What phenomenal opportunities lie ahead in China. I predict that Grant Fraser will become a member at Yangtze Dunes.He will also introduce his unique training methods to China’s Universities via his online training program. It will be interesting to watch the marriage of the North American and Chinese cultures within the world of golf.
    Can’t wait!

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