Over the past few years, the Mission Hills golf resort on the tiny South-east Asian island of Hainan has been making news. The resort has hosted the popular MH World Celebrity pro-am in which Hollywood headliners like Catherine Zeta Jones, and non-golfing sports stars including the likes of basketballer Yao Ming, and swimmer Michael Phelps, have taken part. And then ‘The Match,’ which I wrote about in this column a few months back—an annual matchplay duel between Tiger Woods and Rory Mc Ilroy—has catapulted Hainan on the international golfing stage. But MH Hainan is the younger and smaller sibling of its more famous counterpart in Shenzhen-Dongguan which has another 12 courses. And that—given China’s penchant for superlatives—is, not surprisingly, the biggest golfing facility in the world.
MH Shenzhen-Dongguan sits on the mainland, a short drive from Hong Kong sprawled across 20 kilometres of rolling hills and natural lakes outside Shenzhen. It’s a little difficult to imagine a golfing spread of this magnitude unless you’ve been there. No less than 12 courses, designed by the most legendary players and golf designers in the contemporary game, make up this one-of-its-kind golf resort.
Most players make a beeline for the Jack Nicklaus-designed World Cup Course, so named for hosting the 41st World Cup of Golf (1995). Arguably the pick of all courses in both the MH resorts this course is widely hailed as one of Asia’s best golfing experiences.
Then there’s three-time major winner Vijay Singh’s layout which incorporates design cues from famous courses around the world. The Vijay Course showcases innovative design techniques, including the 150-yard beach bunker on the par-4 third hole, and the green complex at the par-5 10th, literally perched atop a rock wall. ‘Jumbo,’ Ozaki, possibly the most talented Japanese player in history, and captain of the Asian squad for the Royal Trophy, has created a dramatic layout which winds through valley corridors and lakes. The Ozaki Course has wide fairways but strategic bunkering makes this course much tougher than it appears.
Indians are familiar with the Faldo Course—Rashid Khan won his back-to-back Faldo Series Asia titles as an amateur here. The resort’s only ‘stadium course,’ it also features the only ‘island green,’ at the par-3 16th. The Els Course, not surprisingly evokes images of courses in Ernie Els’ homestead—South Africa. Large swathes of manicured turf dominate at this course where, uniquely, no two holes run parallel to each other.