Golf course architect Brian Curley says a new golf course by his Schmidt-Curley Design firm is making the most of generally quite dry conditions – unusual for most of Asia’s courses – to “promote hard and fast conditions and plenty of roll”.
GCA spoke with Curley to find out more about his design at Myotha National Golf Club, which is located in an emerging industrial zone 30 miles south of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city.
What’s the golf scene currently like in Burma?
At the moment, golf in the country is quite limited in quantity and quality. Many courses are very old, flat and with few features. Some are exceptionally quirky with odd shaping and blind shots. Some are heavily treed. Most have endured with modest, antiquated maintenance practices so conditioning is often far from desired. The move to more refined golf courses is just now taking place and, in time, there should be more available helping to create new players. In addition, new courses will certainly emerge that cater to the golfing tourist that wishes to explore a very unique and exotic country that is a far cry from most golf destinations.
What’s the Myotha National site like?
The site has a very strong terrain change, dropping some 40 metres from top to bottom. Within the site are two very deep and dramatic arroyos that wind through the course. The site is very unique and reminds me of the semi-arid, southern Arizona desert where much of the year it remains quite warm and dry, yet is vegetated with thick desert plant material and scrubby rock at the surface. The contrast of the arid vegetation and turf will prove to be very different for the Asia golf market.
When did the development of the course begin?
We have been involved with the project for about four years and construction has been underway for the better part of three years. The site is quite unique to Asia, which has numerous courses in very wet areas that create poor turf conditions. Here, the dry climate will enable us to create turf conditions that will promote hard and fast conditions and plenty of roll. In addition, we have incorporated wide fairways and a number of speed slots and kick slopes that will help the player advance the ball on the ground.
With this conditioning, and with the desire to host events the way that our Amata Spring in Bangkok has to date, the course is very long from the tips at just over 8,000 yards. While this is the case for the tournament tees, the average player will be able to easily negotiate the course at reasonable lengths. As there is strong terrain and the need to cross the arroyos, and the fact that the weather will quite often be on the warm side, the majority of play will certainly be in carts. But, unlike most Asian courses where carts are regulated to the paths, we have wide fairways of Zeon Zoysia that will easily accommodate cart traffic, so players will be able to drive right to their ball. This is quite an anomaly in Asia and will be a welcomed way to play in the heat.
What kind of a challenge will the course provide golfers with?
From the tips, the course will be one of the toughest in all of Asia for those who venture there. At the same time, from the forward tees, the course is quite manageable. In that regard, I would consider it one of those few courses that can be managed by most any level of player. Most courses state this, but few pull it off. One of the things that is quite noticeable is the variety of holes that create a very memorable experience for the first-time player. While the course reads as a whole with a common playbook of design thoughts and execution, the individual holes benefit from very different terrain, backdrops and arroyos, and design strategy. I anticipate will be great debate about which holes are best.
More information on the Myotha National Golf Club is available in the January 2018 issue of Golf Course Architecture.