China's Shanqin Bay
It's new, stunning and fundamentally different from the country's 500 or so other courses.
The first time golf course architect Bill Coore walked this 400-acre site overlooking the South China Sea, he hardly said a word. Nothing unusual there, as he tends to take his time before deciding whether a piece of land will work. The next day, after another 12 hours traversing the hills, woodland, sand dunes, marsh and beachfront of the abandoned army base that sat here, he asked the exhausted land-development-company representative who accompanied him whether the firm could secure access along the water.
Luckily, chairman Jun Wang of CITIC, the state-owned China International Trust and Investment Co., is an avid, world-traveled golfer and he understood what was at stake. They could get golf along the shore. And with that, the deal was sealed. Coore and his design partner, Ben Crenshaw, would do their first Asian golf course.
CITIC Shanqin Bay Golf Club is stunning. It occupies rolling land that brushes up against pineapple plantations and rocky outcrop. Along the way, it takes golfers on a breathless walk across wide-open fields, along manmade lakes, through reclaimed military encampments and down to the coast. Two stirring holes, the par-3 eighth and the par-4 17th, are perched right on the beach.
The par-71 layout, 6,901 yards from the back, conveys a native look with exposure to the windswept elements and salty air. The feel—part Kapalua-Plantation, part Cypress Point—contrasts fundamentally with the formal culture and hyper-manicured presentation of the 500 or so other golf courses in China. This one looks as if it’s been there for a century. In fact, it opened late in 2012.
The starkly modern clubhouse looks out at one of the most engaging final stretches that Coore and Crenshaw have ever come up with: three short par-4s, two of them seemingly drivable, hanging out over the water’s edge. There are powerful contrasting elements at work here at this ultra-luxurious private club: an enthusiastic core of caddies; a restaurant-quality halfway house for each nine; a spa-like locker room; and a golf course whose 360-degree IMAX-worthy views make you feel as if you’re in another world.
Membership is by invitation only; outside play is at the club’s discretion.
CITIC Shanqin Bay Golf Club, Longgun, Wanning City, Hainan, People’s Republic of China. For information, call 86-898-6235-9888 or visit shanqinbay.com
Haikou Melian International (HAK) is 78 miles north of Shanqin Bay and has an 11,800-foot runway. Sanya Phoenix International (SYX) is 110 miles southwest and has an 11,155-foot runway.
Brad Klein is the architecture editor at Golfweek. His latest book is Wide Open Fairways.