OCCM completes renovation of Links course at Lanhai International

  • Sara Bay

    The thirteenth on Lanhai International’s newly-renovated Links course

  • Sara Bay

    The OCCM team has tried to do the natual terrain justice, as seen here on the closing hole

Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

Australian design firm Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (OCCM) has completed an extensive 12-month renovation of the Links course at the 36-hole Lanhai International CC in Shanghai, China. Located on the southern shores of Chongming, an island in the Yangtze River delta, Lanhai International was purchased by Ping An Group, the huge Chinese insurance firm, in 2016.

“We had two courses here, the Forest course (a Nicklaus design) and the Links course,” says the club’s general manager Jay Porter, formerly of Merion Golf Club. “The Links was by far the most popular among our membership, accounting for 65 per cent of all rounds played. In that sense, I give the members and our new owners a lot of credit for renovating an already popular course, in the service of creating a truly world-class track. And make no mistake: that is the expectation.”

“This was always a big-style course in terms of scale,” says OCCM director Ashley Mead, who estimates the OCCM team will have spent 150 days on site during the year of construction. “But we felt the original features didn’t do the terrain justice. Many of the greens and tees felt perched on the high points and not nestled into the dunes. So we’ve created 18 entirely new green sites that, in combination with bigger, more dramatic feature elements, give golfers the chance to play their way through the dunes, not across the top.”

When it reopens in June 2018, the Links course will be walking-only, with eight kilometres of concrete cart paths removed during the construction process.

“There was another important factor that attracted our firm to this project,” Mead continues. “We felt the original golf course, despite the presence of several compelling links motifs (including some fairway contouring that was done very well), didn’t well represent the local environment. Many of the finer details that make any course unique felt imported or manufactured. We’re in China – on an island in the middle of the mighty Yangtze River! Our redesign strongly accentuates that sense of place and culture.”

Mead explains that he sees a lot of Coore & Crenshaw’s Friar’s Head (in Long Island, New York) at Lanhai. “I think Long Island is a pretty fair comparison for the natural sandy environment and vegetation here on Chongming. We drew a lot of inspiration on eleven at Lanhai from the tenth at Friar’s Head, where Bill Coore also used a natural dune short of the green. We just thought that was a wonderful natural feature to play around. More generally, in the way Lanhai transitions from fairway to sandy ground, then from wispy rough areas to outlying dunes, I see a great deal of Friar’s Head – and Pinehurst No. 2, to be honest. I also see elements of Garden City, with its dark brown rough areas contrasting so strikingly with the green of the fairways.”

Construction work was completed by US-based contractor Landscapes Unlimited and Chinese firm The Forward Group, who will also handle operations. The Forward/Landscapes partnership also produced and manages Coore/Crenshaw design Shanqin Bay on Hainan Island. Lanhai’s superintendent Alan Hu previously worked at Shanqin Bay.

“We feel as though we have the finest possible construction and maintenance resources at our disposal here,” says Mead. “And that’s a good thing, because what we’re building here could not be handled by just anyone. The saving grace – and the factor supplying this project such incredible potential – is the terrain itself. The natural movement is compelling. The river is right there. And this entire golfing environment is underpinned by sand, straight from the Yangtze.”