Tom Doak's practice, Renaissance Golf Design, is close to starting construction on its first course in Asia, on the island of Hainan off the coast of China.
The course has a temporary working title of ‘The Island Club’. Construction is scheduled to start later this autumn, with opening projected for the end of 2010. The property is be set within the Nandu River on a low-lying, 300-acre open island, located just 200 yards across from Hainan's largest city, Haikou.
“This is a setting unlike any course I've built,” said Doak. “It's located practically within the city of Haikou and features a lot of waterfront property. As a New York native, I would compare the site to building a course on Roosevelt Island.”
The routing wraps around the eastern side of the island, with holes wrapping around to the west at both ends of the island, too, for a total of eight riverfront holes in all. Doak says the shaping of the holes will be a cross between the TPC at Sawgrass, with long, sandy hazards, and the wrinkly contours of a Scottish links.
Doak says he was initially sceptical that the Chinese market was ready for a golf-focused, minimalist design, but has been looking for a client who appreciated the subtleties of golf. He believes he has found a kindred spirit in Hainan Island native Han Xiding. “Mr Han really appreciates the kind of golf courses our firm builds,” said Doak. “He was an art student at college before getting into the advertising business, so he appreciates the importance we place on the detailing of the course; and he’s an avid golfer who understands the short game shots that make our designs fun. He’s aware not all of his potential customers will initially think of golf the way we do, but believes that the Chinese golfer is becoming more sophisticated, and is ready to embrace a different type of course.”
A frequent attendee of the golf's major tournaments and owner of the Golf Channel of China, Han became intrigued by Doak's philosophy of design, aimed at getting the most out of a piece of property.
Nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of China’, the island of Hainan is located 20 miles from the mainland in the South China Sea. Bordered to the west by Vietnam, it is quickly emerging as one of China's top golf destinations.