China's Stone Forest now open


China's Stone Forest now open
Sean Dudley

The 54-hole Stone Forest International Country Club complex in Kunming, China, has opened for play.

The club’s three courses, known as Leaders Peak, Masters Resort and Yufeng Ridge, have been designed by Arizona-based practice Schmidt-Curley. The courses feature the 270-million year old Stone Forest as a backdrop.

“This is one of the most unusual sites ever made available for golf,” said architect Brian Curley. “Great care was taken to preserve the dramatic rock formations and gently nestle the holes among the rugged outcroppings.”

“Typically, with a multi-course facility, one would focus on creating layouts with distinct styles,” said Curley. “This site, however, is so astonishing that we did not want to distract from the surroundings with bunkering, or any other architectural elements, that said 'look at me.' We kept all three courses very natural to fit the site; there are subtle differences in each but nothing that jumps out. We wanted the stone to be the show.”

Leaders Peak occupies the most heavily-treed portion of the property and can play up to 7,565 yards – not as long as it might seem given the mile-high elevation of the property.. The course’s par three twelfth hole has an island green, but this time surrounded by stone rather than water.

Yufeng Ridge starts high above the property with views of all three golf courses and the Yunnan countryside. Among the feature holes is the eighth, a par four that plays into a wall of stone and vegetation.

To differentiate it from its sister courses, Masters Resort has grass-faced bunkers, more colourful landscaping, and greens with greater undulation. Earmarked as the club's tournament course, standout holes include the par three seventh which features a green set into a natural low, the uphill par five tenth, which plays toward a stone pinnacle backdrop, and the par five eighteenth, which offers long views to the valley floor below.

“With their otherworldly surrounds, dramatic elevation changes, and one of the best year-round climates to grow turf, the Stone Forest courses promise to soon be regarded among the world's best,” said Curley.