Stone Quarry is course no 7 at Mission Hills, Haikou- a resort which at the time of writing consists of 10 courses. However the sheer magnitude of the plans for Mission Hills Haikou is staggering: 22 golf courses, a large movie themed town, and an absolutely enormous entertainment/shopping precinct, and a number of hotels are either underway or on the drawing board.
I understand The Chu family purchased the land relatively cheaply- a good thing given the amount of acreage they bought- but some would have thought that the scrubby black lava was of limited use for much anyway...
I certainly would not have picked it as suitable for golf!
However The Chu family have had considerable success with the original Mission Hills project at Shenzhen where they purchased relatively unsuitable land and employed the american golf course architects Schmidt & Curley to design the courses with some input from big name PGA professionals.
In Haikou they have taken the process a step further having Schmidt & Curley design all 10 courses to date under their own name.
Stone Quarry was our introduction to golf at Mission Hills, Haikou- and it is probably a good course to start on after the rigors of travel. It is not too challenging...
I played as part of a conference of international golf tour operators, and to the man they thought the course pleasant, but unremarkable. I guess it all comes down to what your requirements and expectations are- this is certainly not a course worth travelling any distance to play, and it will never feature in a list of the top courses, even in China.
Nevertheless for a group wanting to get away with their mates somewhere different for a week of golf there is a definite advantage in having one bed for your stay, and a variety of quality courses to play. I say quality because no expense is spared on the infrastructure for the course, accommodation, course maintenance etc.
Stone Quarry will appeal to many simply because of the relatively unique landscape that dominates the golfing experience. While the course has a number of bland holes, the use of the fields of black lava as hazards ( much as water would be used on other courses ) does make a number of holes much more interesting. The middle of the round is dominated by holes which demand carries over or around the the black lava rocks- in particular the par 3's at 8 and 15, and par 5 12 which I though was one of the more interesting holes.
I always like short par 4's that demand decisions off the tee from the golfer, and to their credit the designers have 3 such holes at Stone Quarry in holes 6, 9 & 13. Mind you, hole 13 is a little bit overdone with a very strange bunker surrounded creation on the hill behind what may well be intended to be a marker for the line of the tee shot. The green is driveable for the longer hitter, and the fairway is littered with bunkers. The green is way over the top with a bunker in the middle of a green the size of a soccer field but with a number of crazy levels. Even standing on the green it takes a while to register that the other end of the green is actually connected...
Communication with caddies is always a problem in China, and they sometimes get their left and rights mixed up. We had no idea where to hit, or what to expect, but if I ever play this hole again I hope the pin is on the back level, and I would hit 3 wood at the crazy marker!
Hole 18 is also worthy of mention as actual water rather than lava runs down the entire right of the elevated fairway requiring some precision from both the tee shot and approach. It is a picturesque hole.
The greens at Stone Quarry have quite a bit of movement, but when we played they were very slow and this made them relatively friendly. I can imagine they could be much more difficult if playing hard and fast. My impression of Schmidt Curley courses is they prefer to leave their bunkers fairly plain in appearance rather than make a statement with the shaping- however at Stone Quarry many of the bunkers are lined with sleepers interspersed with grass facing- and this does give the course a more distinctive look which is more than a little reminiscent of Pete Dye'''
But the memories the punter will take away from Stone Quarry will be of carries over and around black lava hazards.....all beautifully presented with old railway tracks and carriages full of lava rocks running through them as part of the stone quarry theme.
This is a good course for fun with mates, a few side bets, and a few photos along the way.
The Travelling Golfer