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|The Olazabal course at Mission Hills is set to host the Omega World Golf Championships through 2018. (Courtesy Tom Breazeale)|
Is the golf industry experiencing a slowdown? Maybe in North America. But Asia doesn't want to hear it.
Golf in Asia has benefited hugely from the continent's emergence in the global market. Corporations from around the world are bringing their business - and their golfing personnel - to the Far East, and world-class luxury golf resorts are sprouting up from Vietnam to Thailand.
No country has made a bigger splash in global capitalism, or global golf, than China. Exhibit A is the massive Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, a half-hour drive from Hong Kong. With 10 golf courses open and two more nearing completion, Mission Hills is the largest golf complex in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The $625 million development is spread out over 15 square kilometers, leaving plenty of room for more superlatives: the world's largest pro shop, the world's largest outdoor kids' playground, Asia's biggest tennis complex (51 courts). There are six driving ranges, and the main clubhouse measures 300,000 square feet.
The big numbers continue off course. The Mission Hills complex features four spas, a 315-room five-star hotel and two luxury residential communities, plus, not surprisingly, ample conference and function space for conventions and business events.
Mission Hills' courses bear the imprimaturs of a dozen top designers and PGA Tour professionals from nine countries, including China's Zhang Lian Wei. But behind the names stands one design firm: Arizona-based Schmidt-Curley.
A recognized force in Asia golf, the firm solidified its international name with the monumental Mission Hills project.
"Not only is Mission Hills big, the process of putting the course down on that ground was a huge achievement," partner Brian Curley told WorldGolf.com. "We had to move mountains, literally. It wasn't like plotting a course through dunes."
Curley said the firm did what it could to minimize redundancy among the property's 12 courses.
"The most obvious differences between the courses would be in the bunker styles," he said. "The environment itself at Mission Hills, with dense jungle, heavy trees - that's consistent from course to course. The backdrops and frames are mostly the same.
"We try and bust it up with landscaping, different grass types, tee shapes and bunker themes."
Mission Hills has been the site of more than 30 international tournaments, including the 1995 World Cup of Golf and the Tiger Woods China Challenge. The Jose Maria Olazabal course is set to host the Omega World Golf Championships through 2018.
The Olazabal is the resort's longest course at 7,400 yards, but it's the Greg Norman - densely tree-lined and featuring a rugged look reminiscent of Royal Melbourne in Australia - that has garnered a reputation as perhaps Asia's most difficult golf course.
More player-friendly designs include the David Leadbetter, David Duval and Annika Sorenstam courses. The Ernie Els and Jumbo Ozaki courses are outfitted with floodlights that allow play until 2 a.m.
The final two courses, the Pete Dye and a par-3 course, are slated to open this summer, rounding out the complex's 216 holes.
April 18, 2007
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Channel Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours.
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