Schmidt-Curley announces new courses at Mission Hills

By November 2, 2010, 7:06 pm

The WGC-HSBC Champions is returning to Shanghai. But that's not the only reason you should give China's golf courses a second look.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Schmidt-Curley Design, one of the world's most active and innovative golf course design firms, announces three new courses have opened for play at Mission Hills Resort Hainan, China, the country's only tropical island which the government announced would be developed into an International Tourism Resort by 2020.

Designed by company co-founder and 25-year industry veteran Brian Curley, the new Blackstone, Stone Outback and Stone Ruins courses are Schmidt-Curley's latest collaboration with Mission Hills China, Asia's leader in sports and leisure development. The firm is architect of record for 10 of Mission Hills Shenzhen's 12 acclaimed golf courses.

Set on tropical Hainan Island – popularly referred to as the 'Hawaii of the East' – and just 15 minutes from Haikou Meilan International Airport and downtown, the courses are destined to be regarded among Asia's finest layouts and the world's greatest collection of volcanic golf courses. The Blackstone Course has already been tabbed to host the 2010 Mission Hills Star Trophy and 2011 Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

Blackstone Course

Blackstone is a 350-acre core golf course that weaves through a striking landscape of mature trees; thick, jungle vegetation; and expansive lakes and wetlands. To make construction possible, the site's dominating characteristic – a dense bed of lava rock – was capped to an average depth of over one meter with soil transported from 20 miles away.

'The volcanic theme is integral to the design,' says Curley. 'Wild, irregular bunker edges and transitional sand areas meld seamlessly into the lava rock framing many holes. Uncapped portions of the lava bed periodically cross the line of play, requiring forced carries and creating a dramatic visual contrast to the vibrant, green turf and sand. We also incorporated lava rock walls and ancient village ruins as a testament to the site's past.'

Dramatic elevation changes punctuate the rolling topography. To preserve the abundant lava rock and stately trees, great care was taken to discover as many natural holes as possible. Paspallum fairways gently sweep across the land and were routed to maximize surface drainage thereby limiting drain inlets commonly found on the region's courses.

'We wanted it to appear as if liquid turf was poured from the sky and flowed along the terrain just as the lava did centuries ago,' says Curley.

'From tee to green, players experience an immaculate blanket of turf – Blackstone does not feature any rough, even on bunker fingers and surrounds,' says Curley. 'The hard-line edges associated with most golf courses are non-existent.'

The course begins in the more heavily wooded portion of the property with a compelling variety of holes and natural amphitheater green settings. It crescendos by snaking through raised terrain, offering excellent spectator vantage points for the closing holes. Intimate green to tee relationships will make the course easily walkable for players and spectators alike when it hosts major international tournaments.

Says Curley: 'At over 7,600 yards and with several risk / reward opportunities on the inward nine, Blackstone will quickly prove to be one of the world's premier tournament courses. We created not only an outstanding tournament layout, but one planned with all the facilities and accoutrements needed to host the sport's biggest events.'

Stone Outback Course

Inspired by the Australian Sandbelt's iconic courses, Stone Outback is distinguished by large, high-flashed bunkers with crisp, thick lips rising above fairway and green surfaces. The gently rolling site is populated with Eucalyptus trees, further evoking its Australian influences of Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath and Metropolitan Golf Club.

'While some of the bunkers are formal and surrounded by turf, many transition without a clean edge to the native jungle vegetation bordering holes,' says Curley. 'This creates a unique and much more natural landscape.'

Its wide playing corridors – with fairways featuring only surface drainage – encourage second-shot creativity into large, undulating greens. Square tee boxes add to the distinct look. Like the Blackstone and Stone Ruins courses, it sprawls over a huge expanse of land yet offers adjacent greens and tees to promote walking.

Stone Ruins Course

Stone Ruins pays homage to the classic American golf courses built at the turn of the 20th century. It has a distinct, authentic feel – holes were routed to leave the densely forested site as undisturbed as possible – and is marked by quirky features typically associated with revered courses such as National Golf Links, Chicago Golf Club and others. Abrupt mounding; deep pot bunkers; severe ridges; blind shots; varied, sometimes geometric, bunkering; an array of green sizes and wicker basket pins are highlights.

'The oldest course in China is a new course in Haikou,' says Curley. 'Stone Ruins provides a welcome relief from the many cookie-cutter layouts that dominate golf today, recalling an architecture period when experimentation and expression were much more openly embraced.'

For more information about completed and current projects, visit www.schmidt-curley.com or call 480.483.1994.

About Schmidt-Curley Design

Founded by partners Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley with offices in Scottsdale, Arizona; Haikou, Hainan Island, China and Kunming, China, Schmidt-Curley is a full-service, international golf course architecture and master-planning firm with more than 100 layouts in 24 countries, including the U.S., Thailand, China, Vietnam, Mexico, Egypt, Sweden and Korea. The tandem is responsible for crafting 10 of the 12 courses at storied Mission Hills Shenzhen – the 'World's Largest Golf Club,' accredited by Guinness World Records.

Schmidt-Curley teamed with Pete Dye, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ernie Els, David Duval, Annika Sorenstam, Vijay Singh, David Leadbetter and Jumbo Ozaki to create a golf experience unlike any other globally. High profile, award-winning projects from Schmidt-Curley include Bali Hai and Siena Golf Clubs (Las Vegas), Amata Spring Golf Club (Chonburi, Thailand, four-time host of the PGA European Tour's Royal Trophy), Terra Lago Golf Club (Indio, California, site of the Skins Game from 1999 - 2002), Twin Creeks Golf Club (Cedar Park, Texas) and Crosby National Golf Club (Rancho Santa Fe, California).

Schmidt-Curley has also worked extensively with golf's biggest names – including Dye, Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and Fred Couples on numerous high-profile projects – and boasts four ASGCA members (Lee Schmidt, Brian Curley, Grant Haserot and Andy Raugust).

Producing demanding yet beautiful and enjoyable courses, Schmidt-Curley strives to create golf experiences that stir the senses and elevate golfers' appreciations for the land and the game. By balancing classic golf course architecture with ever-changing contemporary technology, Schmidt-Curley places an emphasis on site-adaptive courses, memorable and enjoyable for all levels of play and always designed for cost-efficient maintenance and operations.

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.