Golf Course Architecture - Issue 64, April 2021

46 T hose who have followed the story of golf in China will have witnessed an endless parade of twists and turns. It was an especially difficult animal to get your hands around if you were one of the many golf designers who participated in the story, from the soft building of courses in the early 1990s and their explosion between 2000 to 2012, to the sudden and dramatic halt of construction with the emergence of the President Xi era. In a 10-year period from the mid- 2000s, much of the golf construction was done in spite of existing government moratoriums. But construct they did. I first set foot in China following the 1995 World Cup of Golf that was held on the first course at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong. This coincided with what I felt was the beginning of a slowdown in a hot, domestic market in the US and the prospect of a wide open market that had an enormous appetite for the sport. The initial courses (and most that were built after) followed a similar thread of being constructed on less-than-friendly terrain, where massive earthmoving was required to manhandle sites to create grades suitable for golf. Along with this was a strong directive from almost every owner and developer for formal, parkland golf. Much of this work was driven by the ever-present ‘golf expert’, who was often one of a handful of people in the business who would inf luence the minds of ownership, many of whom had never held a club. As a result, just as ‘same-same’ is an often-used expression in Asia, it also became the directive of those who wanted a bulletproof design that was pretty and built to please the senses of golfers with a very limited knowledge of golf. Having grown up in Pebble Beach, I would always show images of more natural designs, but these were The story so far Having worked in China for much of his professional life, golf course architect Brian Curley describes how the country’s golfing landscape has changed over the last 30 years BR IAN CURLEY INS IGHT