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A Year of Discovery

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| BY DESIGN A of Discovery Year I Courtesy of Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club; Alex Jenkins (Kau Sai Chau) Award-winning architect Paul Jansen discusses the highlights of 2015 from a golf course design point of view. love travel and golf travel in particular. I am fortunate that my work as a golf course architect has taken me to some of the most spectacular places across the globe. I have visited – and indeed lived – in every continent except for South America. Each year I am an introduced to new places and at the same time get to meet many wonderful people. This was certainly the case in 2015. I visited many dramatic courses this year. The Bluffs at Ho Tram, on the coast to the southeast of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, was one of those. Sand dunes as high as twenty yards dominate the play corridors, much like those you would see at courses such as Royal Hague, Royal Birkdale and Ballybunion. The scenery is outstanding and golfers are treated to one memorable shot after the other. I am certainly interested to see how it shows up on television during this month’s inaugural Ho Tram Open because it is extremely memorable in the flesh. T he cou rses i n Hong Kong wa r ra nt particular note. Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, host of October’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, could go down as the best routed golf course I saw this year. The land on which the course occupies is breathtaking and even if the elevation change from top to bottom is monumental, the architects did a good job to route holes that are varied in nature, highlight the surrounds and are easy enough to traverse by foot. The Old Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club’s Fanling site was by far the most charming golf course I visited. It has a wonderful mix of unique and fun holes. If more golf courses were like this the game would be better for it. I also enjoyed The Jockey Club Kai Sau Chau, which has great variety of holes across its three layouts. It is to my mind one of the best public golf facilities anywhere on the planet. Having lunch in the splendid clubhouse at Bangkok’s Thai Country Club will also go down as a highlight. Furthermore, the course there is certainly one of the best maintained. It has an all-round good feeling about it and worth a visit. Also, how can I forget sitting on the porch of the colonial clubhouse at Royal Colombo Golf Club in Sri Lanka? It bought back memories of my upbringing in Africa. I could not help myself but I had to have half a loaf of bread – with jam – to go with my many cups of Ceylon tea. The course is something of an artefact with an active rail line crossing some of the holes and some of the biggest trees I have ever seen with canopy spans nearing thirty yards. It is such a characterpacked course – even if the design is poor – and provides a wonderful sense of place. I was pleasantly surprised by Tanah Merah Country Club in Singapore. Sure, some of the landscaping has been overdone, including the massive waterfall fronting the clubhouse, but overall it is well thought out from a design perspective and provides great interest, particularly in terms of the ground contouring that dominate so much of the play areas. Ground contours are such a powerful design and engineering feature, especially where they help move water off the play surfaces. It is unfortunate that so few golf courses throughout Asia are limited in this regard. Add to this, Tanah Merah is testament to the fact that a course need not be long to be good. HKGOLFER.COM Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club and the North Course at The Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau impressed the author during his trip to Hong Kong earlier in the summer 38 HK GOLFER・DEC 2015 Bunkers are an integral part of the game but unfortunately too many courses are unnecessarily over bunkered, and I saw this all too often on my travels. Augusta National, with just over 40 bunkers, is a great example of a course that has just enough. Both Tanah Merah and Ria Bintan have some of the fiercest I have seen anywhere this year. I am not sure how much effect these deep bunkers have on the place pace of play (or maintenance costs, for that matter) but I for one would not like to find myself in any of them. Ria Bintan is a once-in-a-lifetime experience given its outstanding scenery, flora and fauna and the nearby Laguna Bintan promises to be just as spectacular when the renovation of that course is complete. In fact, I was recently in Bintan helping my business partner – Mark Lawson, who is overseeing the renovation at Laguna Bintan – with design input and took the opportunity to visit the Gary Player-designed Ria Bintan. The golf course is very challenging but does have a remarkable sense of place. I suspect any disappointment one would get from posting a big number would be nullified given the overall experience. The best golf courses are always identifiable with their surrounds and this can be said of Ria Bintan, where the jungle is hard up against the golf and where golfers get to interact with monkeys, large iguanas and the rest. It’s hard not to forget. I visited a number of golf courses outside of Asia including a few in North America, like Old Memorial, Streamsong and Isleworth (all in Florida) and Glen Abbey, which often hosts the Canadian Open. Old Memorial was my favourite of the bunch and a wonderful example of what is achievable on a f lat parcel of land. The biggest surprise for me this year were the pitch and putt courses – fronting their respective hotels – I visited on the Cancun strip in Mexico. It was pleasing to see so many people enjoying these types of facilities. Short courses of this kind are what the game needs more of. The land parcel required to create these courses is very small – thereby lowering construction and maintenance costs – and they are such wonderful places on which learn the game. Most importantly, a round takes less than an hour or two. As I write, I am preparing for a week in Scotland – at the Home of Golf, St Andrews. I have been to St Andrews before but never had the opportunity to step foot inside the famous R&A clubhouse, which I am looking forward to doing this time. I have been asked to speak at an R&A-organised event on the pace of play and promise to report on this next month. HKGOLFER.COM "The courses in Hong Kong warrant particular note. Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, host of October's Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, could go down as the best routed golf course I saw this year." HK GOLFER・DEC 2015 39

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