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Green Havens

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| BY DESIGN Green ost of us l ive i n a concrete jungle – by that I mean we live in a place surrounded by high-rise buildings, overcrowded transport systems, busy roadways and a lot of smog and pollution. Just finding a patch of grass to enjoy can seem a hard task. This is where golf courses offer that little bit of respite – or at least allow us the opportunity to enjoy a bit of nature and green space within our congested environments. I think of the first time I visited India and particularly the city of Delhi. Delhi is known for being ‘green’ – with the supposed number of public parks, cricket pitches and general green spaces – although I never felt I was one with nature until I arrived at the Delhi Golf Club, which lies just off a busy road. A green haven in the middle of a busy metropolis, the golf club is a total release from the craziness of the big city – so much so that you would hardly guess you are surrounded by over 10 million people. It is much the same way at Royal Colombo Golf Club in Sri Lanka, which is also slap bang in the middle of the city. A very unique golf course surrounded by high-rise buildings and divided by a railway line this course is also a haven for wildlife, birdlife and the odd reptile or two. Other golf courses like Royal Selangor in Kuala Lumpur, the Hong Kong Golf Club and even the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai allow urban commuters the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Golf is unique in that we get to enjoy a large open space with varied fauna and flora usually not very far from where we live or work. Not one golf course is the same and this makes the game attractive. Golf courses are also home to some amazing Havens M Architect Paul Jansen discusses the importance inner-city golf courses play on a golfer’s psyche. wildlife and birdlife that you would not typically find roaming the big cities – unless of course you are in India. In fact in some parts of the world there are golf courses that are totally entwined with nature and this makes them distinctive and as memorable a golf experience as you will ever get to see. South Africa, for instance, may not have the best designed golf courses on the planet but it has a high number of very natural golf courses dotted about the Republic. Some of the most distinctive golf courses – found on the Highveld – take golfers on a journey like no other. Golfers can be forgiven for thinking they are on a game drive or as my Australian friend once commented, “Thinking you are in Jurassic Park”. This should certainly not discourage golfers as these courses are remarkably fun to play and memorable to see in person. The Gary Player Country Club, Hans Marensky and Leopard Creek are three such layouts where golfers get to experience firsthand the beauties of nature. All three golf courses bound nature parks and because of this, animals often find their way onto the playing areas at opportune moments. In the wonderful book South Africa’s Greatest Golf Destinations by Jamie Thom and Stuart Mclean there is a fantastic description of the wildlife that roam one such golf course – Hans Marensky Golf Club – in the northern reaches of the country. “At Hans Marensky golfers have spotted rare kills by leopards and cheetah on the course, and a buffalo once charged the green-keepers pickup truck. Tragically a golfer from Germany was killed by an enraged elephant in 1998 when she became curious about its proximity to the bush adjoining one of the holes, and ventured too close in order to take photographs of it. Danger does lurk on the fairways, but the security on this resort HKGOLFER.COM Credit: Getty Images (Emirates); Alex Jenkins (Royal Colombo) The Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai (opposite top) and the Royal Colombo Golf Club in Sri Lanka (opposite bottom) are great examples of centrally-located layouts in large, populated cities 38 HK GOLFER・JUN 2015 and housing estate is tight. Any report of big cats means golfers must retreat to the clubhouse. Regulars do not worry about hippos and crocodiles that inhabit the water hazards, although no one ventures out after dark when the hippos march along the fairways in search of grazing.” That description shows us just how amazing the game of golf can be. What other sport are you afforded the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors all whilst playing a sport and enjoying some exercise at the same time? In the book Anatomy of a Golf Course, architect Tom Doak talks about the best golf courses being routed exactly the way you might be inclined to wander the property if there were no golf course there. I can’t argue with that statement. My favourite golf courses are as good to walk as they are to play – I think of golf courses like Utrecht De Pan in the Netherlands, Royal County Down in Northern Ireland and even Crystal Downs in the USA being wonderful examples of courses that take golfers on a magical journey of discovery around the property all whilst having an urban element in close proximity. In Scotland many of the golf courses are on public land and so before or after work it’s not uncommon to find the family out walking the links. At St Andrews it is par for the course to have to wait on the 18th tee as a passer-by walks across the fairway. Golf is nature and provides us the rare opportunity to leave behind the stress of everyday life for a little while. I know when I have had a bad day – or heavy weak – my favourite place is that bit of green space down the road. Paul Jansen is the principal architect for Jansen Golf Design. For more information visit his website at jansengolfdesign.com HKGOLFER.COM Golf is unique in that we get to enjoy a large open space with varied fauna and flora usually not very far from where we live or work. Not one golf course is the same and this makes the game attractive. HK GOLFER・JUN 2015 39

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