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.'

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)