Asian renovations for Golfplan


Asian renovations for Golfplan
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

The market for course renovations across the Asia/Pacific region is growing, according to course design firm Golfplan, who expect to break ground on three separate renovation projects around the continent in 2011.

In Shenzhen, China, Golfplan will begin its second phase of greens renovation at the Xili Golf Club in April. Outside Seoul, South Korea, the firm has already broken ground on a 27 hole renovation and nine hole addition at Lakewood Country Club. The firm’s redesign at Singapore Island Country Club is under contract and now in planning, with construction expected to start at the end of the year. Golfplan will ultimately refurbish three of the four course at the club.

The Island course goes first, ahead of SICC's Sime course and the famous Bukit course, designed in the 1920s by legendary Scottish architect (and five times Open champion) James Braid, and frequent host to the Johnnie Walker Classic and Singapore Open.

“Renovation of existing courses is a sign of maturation. Established clubs are obliged to compete with newly developed clubs for members and resort golfers,” said Golfplan partner Kevin Ramsey, who will direct the Xili renovation. “This first wave of new courses is now showing the signs of having endured 20 years of heavy play. Golf courses wear out, like anything else, and new standards of maintenance and design are continually established across Asia. Our work at Xili, Lakewood and Singapore Island will allow these clubs to meet those rising standards.” 

At Xili, for example, the decision to renovate has been driven by the inordinate amount of course development in the Shenzhen area since the club opened in 1995, especially the last ten years. Managed by hotel operator Shangri-La, Xili will regrass all 36 greens with hybrid dwarf TifEagle bermudagrass.

“This particular turf was not even available for commercial use in China until recently, and will provide a significant upgrade in the quality of course conditioning,” said Ramsey. “We will also renovate each bunker and green complex, though we are doing just nine holes per year, to minimise disruption. This second of four nines will go offline in mid-April, and play will resume on 1 October.”

Golfplan partner David Dale will direct the work at Singapore Island, where the Island course is the first of three layouts to be renovated, as the main clubhouse is located there. The course is scheduled to reopen in 2013. 

“At the Bukit course, we will hew as closely as possible to Braid’s design intents,” said Dale. “This will require interpretation, as the tropical, fecund nature of the climate in Singapore — and the extraordinary amount of play the Bukit has seen over the course of eighty-odd years — has greatly diminished Braid's influence. 

Lakewood, just 30 minutes from downtown Seoul, provides yet another distinct renovation scenario. The club was opened in 1972, and 38 years of play has taken its toll. Yet in order to receive city and regional approvals, the club was obliged to incorporate public golf holes into its renovation plan. 

Dale and the Golfplan team will ultimately create 18 private holes beside 18 public holes, complemented by a double-decker driving range open to the public. 

“When we're finished, approximately half of the existing 27 holes will be recognisable but completely renovated,” Dale said. “The remainder, plus the new nine, will look and play like a completely new golf course, which it will be.”