The Great Resort of China

By Adam BarrOctober 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
Stunning views in every direction. Fascination in every corner. A wonder of the Asian landscape.
 
You might think Im talking about the Great Wall of China. Actually, I mean Mission Hills, the megagolf resort an hour into the Republic of China from Hong Kong. Evidently, ten courses werent enough. Echoing the current Chinese economic war cry for robust growth, Mission Hills has made it an even dozen.
 
Mission Hills Golf Club - China
Mission Hill Golf Club in China has 12 different courses - 216 holes in all!
The resort has also signed a 12-year deal to host the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, the famous international good will competition of two-man teams from countries around the world. This years version starts November 22 on the Jose Maria Olazabal course.
 
I first visited Mission Hills four years ago, about the time its tenth course came online. I have been to St. Andrews, Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst and all the rest. They are magnificent places. But there is nothing quite like Mission Hills. This place was designed to be the biggest in the world (the two latest courses, opened in 2005, surpassed Pinehursts 180 holes to take the global lead) and to host international tournaments.
 
The Olympics are coming to Beijing, Chinas capital, in 2008, and that creates most of the sports buzz in this massive nation. But in the south of China, an ancient saying goes, Heaven is high, and the Emperor is far away. That has always been the subtext of the more commercially minded southeastern Chinese culture, and it is the spirit in which golf grows there.
 
Its not that theres golf as far as the eye can see. Well, there almost is. From the enormous Dongguan clubhouse (one of three), you can see construction cranes in the distance, way past the edge of the property, evidence of Chinas relentless economic powerlifting. But there is so much more to look at within the property that you forget the outside world quickly and enter golfs prodigious Middle Kingdom.
 
What gets you more deeply is the sheer scale of the place. The idea that there could be more than half a dozen courses in any one spot is hard to get the mind around. But an entire dozen? I can choose from twelve courses, each designed by a famous architect or player consultant?
 
Hmm. Lets see. Do I feel Olazabal, Ozaki or Sorenstam today? (The other player-designers or design consultants are Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, David Duval, and David Leadbetter, Zhang Lian Wei and Pete Dye. Also, noted architects Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt of Scottsdale, Ariz. have consulted on nine of the twelve.)
 
Even before you get to the 216 holes (stop and think about that a moment), there is a lot to take in. I recall vividly entering the Dongguan clubhouse (at 680,000 square feet, the largest) and checking out the golf shop. The three-floor golf shop. Im told its bigger than most Nordstroms. Golf balls to go with that cashmere sweater, sir? Just up the escalator.
 
And for a post-round massage, you may want to visit one of our spasor wait for the fourth one to be built; its coming any day now. A new hotel tower is planned as well, the third building for housing outside guests.
 
Mission Hills Golf Club - China
The is a look at the Pete Dye course on the resorts property.
Then its time to hit the ball. One of 3,000 (yes, three thousand) expertly trained women caddies will see to your golf needs for the next four hours or so -- not more than that, because the pace of play, and everything else at the resort, somehow operates like unerring clockwork. That includes bag storage and amenities for 10,000 members, plus resort guests.
 
The courses themselves are surprisingly varied, with some dramatic elevation changes. Mostly, though, there is a pleasing roll to the property, and a sane amount of trees. In the morning mist, the place can look ethereal. Only then do you lose sight of the fact that the golf estate you are enjoying is larger than five Central Parks. Yes, the huge one in New York City. Times five.
 
Factors of five, ten, a thousand are the currency of economic life in China these days. The pace of development in what was once one of the worlds primary anti-capitalist bulwarks is sufficiently dizzying to stupefy visiting Wall Street veterans.
 
And that sometimes gives rise to criticism of golf in China as a sport for the rich-man minority ' although the ranks of those elite are growing rapidly. Mission Hills is undeterred, though, especially in light of the history of golf in the United States, where the sport took hold in the late 19th century among the economic upper crust, becoming more populist over the last 60 years. By bringing the Omega World Cup to China, Dr. David Chu, founder and chairman of the resort, figures he is broadening the foothold of golf in the worlds most populous country.
 
We are making history in the fine chronicle of golf, Chu said recently. China has a population of 1.4 billion with 400 million youths. The country is having not only the fastest growth in global golf development, but also the largest consumer market in the world.
 
'I believe hosting the World Cup of golf in China together with partners like OMEGA, the International Golf Association, the International Federation of PGA Tours under The European Tour's guidance and the China Golf Association, will go beyond just influencing sports and commercial development, it will create an impact so big it will truly turn golf into a global sport!'
 
The punctuation is Chus, and his enthusiasm is as clear as his talent for consensus-building. Whether golf trickles down in China in this generation remains to be seen. But if the energy that could accomplish something on the scale of Mission Hills can be applied to plebeian participation ' well, lets just say markets could open by the dozens.
 
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    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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    Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

    By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

    LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

    Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

    Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

    “When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

    “Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

    Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

    “Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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    Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

    Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

    It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

    “I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

    “I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

    Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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    Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

    LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

    The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

    Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

    In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

    What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

    If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

    Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

    “You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

    That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

    Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

    “Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

    While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

    “Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

    While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

    Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

    “I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

    It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

    One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

    “Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

    And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.