Gone!, pt 1
A Tale of Disappearing Golf Courses
As with so many other industries golf is undergoing significant change.
Aging populations, busy lifestyles, land values- there are so many reasons why a golf course needs to justify it's existence. While the elite courses around the world flourish, the local clubs need to work hard to provide a quality product at a reasonable price.
Often the land golf courses occupy becomes quite valuable for development, increasing the pressure on the continuing operations of the club
Whatever the reason may be, change is a constant- with large numbers of clubs tinkering with their courses in an effort to get ahead- while others fall by the wayside...
In this article we look at a few of the courses we have visited around the world that didn't make it...
Stoneforest International, China
Stoneforest International- Yufeng Ridge (Course A)
- Masters Resort (Course B)
- Leaders Peak ( Course C)
Rated by some as the no 1 wonder of the world, Stoneforest National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts over 3 million visitors a year.
It seemed inconceivable that authorities would allow 3 golf courses to be built in the middle of this environment- well they didn't!
It appears that permits never issued
Apparently there were quite a number of golf courses built in this era without permits.
A more rigorous approach in recent years has seen a crackdown on these golfing operations.
Stoneforest is out of business- I am unsure if it has been bulldozed or is merely non operational?
Each of the three courses were designed by Schmidt Curley and routed through towering rock formations- some of the holes were amazing!
It is a great pity- it was a really interesting place to play golf!
Yunling GC, China
Also in China, and located near Spring City in Kunming, Yunling was a high end development built on the top of a mountain. No expense was spared in building the access road up to the course, and the clubhouse, and the course itself
Designed by Rees Jones the course had some dramatic clifftop holes, and spectacular outlooks
But again the permit process appears to be overlooked and the course has been closed- although my contacts say it remains intact.
Simapo (The Island), Haikou, China
I inspected The Island just before it was to open. It was built on what was essentially a large sandbar in the middle of the river in the middle of the city of Haikou.
Designed by the legendary Tom Doak, it really was an amazing place to play golf- looking out to river and high rise apartments from every vantage point, but still quite divorced from all the hubbub...
But it never got going....
Nirwana Bali, Bali, Indonesia
Designed by Greg Norman on the island of Bali, Nirwana Bali Resort, and particularly the golf course have become a fond memory
Apparently the resort had become a little tired, but I thought it was just grand- a lovely place to stay, to relax, and to play golf.
The Norman course offered a number of memorable oceanfront holes, and was a course I would happily go back to...
When Donald Trump puchased the resort a few years back he demolished the resort and is completely rebuilding. The golf course will also be brand new, rebuilt by Phil Mickleson
Let's hope the new Nirwana Bali captures some of the magic of the old!
The National Golf Club- Ocean Course, Australia
Set in huge sand dunes by the sea at Cape Schanck, The National Golf Club has perhaps the most impressive set up of any in the southern hemisphere.
The Old Course dates from 1988, and then the club opened the Moonah, and Ocean courses late in 2000. Members are almost fanatical with their attachment to the Old & Moonah courses which were designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr and Greg Norman respectively- but the Ocean course- designed by Thomson, Wolveridge & Perret- never really garnered the same support. So after a member vote the club appointed Tom Doak to completely redesign a new course in place of The Ocean Course. The new course was named The Gunnamatta and opened for limited play in May 2019
Doak has designed a course that is playable for all, and in different conditions. Aware of the difficulty of holding the ball on exposed greens in wind, Doak has opted for some classic links style greens with subtle movement and a variety of slopes to play off. It's a fun course to play, and won't beat you up- and a perfect complement to the Old & Moonah courses
The Sheep Ranch, Bandon, Oregon, USA
In my opinion the best golf resort in the world is Bandon Dunes in Oregon, USA
Owner Mike Keiser searched high and low for years to find a sandy coastal site suitable for links golf- and when he found it, he knew just what to do..
The Resort currently boasts four top 100 courses- Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, and Old MacDonald
And a wonderful par 3 course by Coore Crenshaw called Bandon Preserve
When Tom Doak designed Pacific Dunes he also built some greens on the nearby coastal property known as The Sheep Ranch. It was quite unique- a collection of tees and greens, and fairways going off in all directions. You could choose which green to head to from any particular tee. Great fun!
But inevitably the commercial opportunities came to the fore. Coore Crenshaw are currently building an 18 hole course on the site with no less than 9 clifftop greens.
It will be called Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch and will open in 2020.
Now that should be worth seeing!
Oreti Sands (Southland), New Zealand
Oreti Sands is/was a remote links course at the bottom of the south island of New Zealand. The land was perfect for golf- rolling sand dunes, and pine trees- right on the coast
With a decent population base within driving distance somebody would have developed this into a golfing destination
But in the end it was just too far south, and too remote, and the local club members could not sustain it...
Maybe one day?