Yangtze Dunes course reopens following 12-month project

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    The Yangtze Links course at Lanhai International in Shanghai is now open

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    OCCM have created 18 entirely new greens to let golfers play through, rather than over, the dunes

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    Eight kilometres of concrete cart paths were removed

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    The course is now, unusually for Asia, walking-only

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    Sand and scrub on the approach to the par-five third hole

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    The par-four closing hole on the Yangtze Links course

Toby Ingleton
By Toby Ingleton

The Yangtze Links course at the 36-hole Lanhai International CC in Shanghai, China, has reopened following a 12-month renovation by Australian design firm Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking & Mead (OCCM).

OCCM director Ashley Mead felt that 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,” he said, in GCA’s previous article about the project. “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.”

The course is now walking-only, with eight kilometres of concrete cart paths removed during the construction process.

“Our members were on board with these changes from the beginning – they understood that a traditional links is best enjoyed on foot, with caddies,” said Jay Porter, general manager at Lanhai International CC. “They were ready for that aspect; it was honestly not that controversial.

“What they weren’t ready for was just how good, how unique the new course has revealed itself to be. They’re over the moon about what OCCM have created here. The new 18 holes at Yangtze Dunes course are still quite young, still growing-in to maturity. But the members love it because it’s unlike anything in Shanghai, anything in China – anything in Asia, frankly.”

“The mere fact that we’ve created a true links track at Yangtze Dunes makes it stand out from nearly every golf course that currently exists in Asia,” said Mead. “For whatever reason – cultural or climatic – Asian developers have not chosen to build many courses in the links tradition.

“As a firm, we’re deeply committed to designing golf courses that represent the local environment. And here’s a relevant fact: Chongming is the largest alluvial island in the world – alluvial being a fancy way of describing sand islands formed by river currents. So, we’re in China, on a giant sand bar in the middle of the mighty Yangtze River, just northeast of Shanghai, in the shadow of the towering Yangtze River Bridge. This site was crying out for a full-on links and we’re very pleased Yangtze Dunes so strongly accentuates this place and culture.

“For us, no matter where we’re working, it’s all about tying the design back to the natural landscape,” said Mead. “We actually went around to several traditional parks, old villages and gardens in the Shanghai area to get a better feel for this. We visited some lovely natural wetlands just around the corner from the golf course, on Chongming Island itself, to gather cues on the vegetation front. The terrain, vegetation and immediate environment here just don’t recall any Australian environment we’ve seen or worked in.

“I doubt very much many golf courses have ever been built in this sort of environment, full stop, especially here in Asia. Which helps explain why Yangtze Dunes is so special.”

Course construction activities, just completed, were led by The Forward Group, a Chinese course building and club management firm. Club operations at Lanhai are a collaboration between Forward and US-based Landscapes Unlimited, which has 50 facilities in its worldwide operations portfolio.

OCCM has also created a “sprawling, flamboyantly contoured putting course” for the club. The ‘Chuiwan’ course is named after the ancient Chinese game first referenced in the late 10th century, which has similar rules to golf. “Some Chinese scholars have advanced the idea that perhaps Chuiwan was taken across Asia during the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty – to Scotland eventually, which explains the emergence of golf there. I think that remains open to interpretation,” said Porter. “But the Chinese people do reserve a special sort of respect and admiration for their ancestors. This was a game they clearly played, centuries ago. The Chuiwan course will provide our members the opportunity to regularly pay homage to this ancestral, thoroughly Chinese game in a really fun way.”