Sheshan Golf Club Chinas secluded little world of golf

By November 2, 2010, 5:20 pm

 

Sheshan International Golf Club
The beautiful Sheshan International Golf Club sits only 45 minutes from downtown Shanghai.

With the WGC-HSBC Champions returning to Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club, the golf world takes a look at this far east classic.

SHANGHAI, China – Five years ago, when Sheshan Golf Club opened for business, General Manger Roger Foo asked himself, 'Should I leave the course be, or transform it into a challenging destination for the world's best golfers?'

Foo decided to go big. But early modifications didn't keep David Howell, winner of Sheshan's inaugural HSBC Champions tournament, from finishing at 20 under. Too easy, Foo said. Could his groundskeepers push back three tee boxes, grow out the rough and tweak the greens? They did, and in 2007 tournament champion Phil Mickelson finished at 10 under. Around the same time, club members began to complain that the course was too hard.

On a muggy morning in June, Foo sipped espresso in Sheshan's wood-veneered cigar bar, where a waitress carried cocktails to a trio of exhausted member-golfers. Sunlight flashed across a plush blue carpet, upon the old-world-style furniture, against a rack of wine glasses. As the golfers discussed their morning round, Foo, a slender fellow wearing designer glasses, explained that Sheshan has earned a reputation for having some of the best greens in the world.

Indeed, he says, 'We're quite proud of the transformation that's taken place over the last five years.'

Sheshan Golf Club: 'Not a bad hole on the course'
You might not guess that Sheshan sits 45 minutes from downtown Shanghai. The private club overlooks a vast, alluvial plain, and its roughly 360-acre property includes villas, townhouses and mansions built in French, Spanish, Tuscan and 'Palazzo' architectural styles. (A club spokesperson wouldn't say which mansion is reserved for Tiger Woods during the HSBC tournament.)

The course has 60,000 trees with names like 'cuckoo,' 'yulan' and 'sweet-scented osmanthus.' Hole four features a 1000-year-old ginkgo. Holes 16 and 17 span a 50-meter-deep rock quarry and overlook the historic Basillica of our Lady of Sheshan.

'There isn't really a bad hole on the golf course,' Director of Golf James Brown told me before smacking a tee shot on 16. 'It's a secluded little world: You feel like you're not in China.'

Don't get too distracted by Sheshan Golf Club's elegance, because the course requires your concentration. Brown said the course's fairways are narrow for amateurs. And its greens, which Roger Foo said reach speeds of 11 or 12 during HSBC play, make you wish you had lingered on the practice green. When I played Sheshan Golf Club in June, several well-placed approach shots veered into greenside bunkers, as if at the whim of a cruel and invisible wizard. Fortunately the rough grass was really short. (Fairways and tee boxes were in transition from Rye to Paspalum grass.)

Sheshan Golf Club pulls out the aesthetic stops on its final holes. The 12th green borders a moat, which encircles 20 European-looking mansions. After wending along for a few holes, the moat gives way to a view of Sheshan's famous basilica. The impressive rock quarry that confronts golfers on 16 almost takes your breath away. When you turn to face it again on 17, you're also admiring a pretty clock tower. The 18th green – where Sergio Garcia ousted Oliver Wilson in a show-stopping 2008 playoff – offers a lovely view of Sheshan's Tuscan-style clubhouse.

It's clear that architects and groundskeepers are working hard. During our round, droves of workers were laying wood chips to make the course more playable. A few weeks later, they would install two industrial fans on every green to keep Sheshan's bentgrass from withering in 40-degree (Celsius) heat.

As Brown said: 'The course is always beautifully maintained, even in high summer.'

Sheshan's roughly 1,000 golfing members appear to like their club: In 2008, a membership here sold for more than $200,000. When I strolled the grounds after my round, even frustrated novices were smiling as they returned to Sheshan Golf Club's posh, sweet-smelling clubhouse.

That's the idea, Foo said. Pro tournaments notwithstanding, he explained, Sheshan is a 'high-end' club for businessmen, and his main objective is keeping them comfortable. Accordingly, they enjoy access to a golf lodge (rooms start at about $100 per night), ping-pong tables, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an Italian restaurant, a pro shop, a swanky health club with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a spa, and a conference center with leather chairs, polished tables and two-way mirrors.

'Most members bring clients for entertainment,' Foo said. In other words: Golf takes a backseat to networking.

Gazing out the window, the slim GM said he would consider making Sheshan harder for future HSBC tournaments. (There is room to push other tee boxes back.) But Foo doesn't want to make Sheshan Golf Club too tricky – and alienate his clients in the process.

At this, James Brown, drinking tea across the table, looked up and smiled. 'After all,' he said, 'it's just a game.'

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

“Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

“When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

“Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

“Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

“The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

“Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

Christina Kim:

LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

LPGA pro Jennie Lee: