Described as the “crown jewel” at the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island, the Blackstone course is marketed as the premier 18-hole layout at a ten-course golf complex where each and every track was designed by the prolific Schmidt-Curley Design team.
Fairways are routed across a varied landscape of woodland and wetlands, taking advantage of some dramatic elevation changes as they weave through beds of lava rock that were capped under a metre of soil during construction.
We were intrigued to find such a difference in stroke index ratings for the back-to-back par fives at holes 12 and 13 (SI 18 and 2) so we asked architect Brian Curley if this was due entirely to their respective lengths of 532 yards versus 681 yards. He replied thus:
“Hole 12 is a relatively benign par five but the green is quite challenging, especially the upper tier. A series of cross bunkers about 75 yards short of the green demands a proper club selection for the second shot. In most events so far, including the World Cup, many golfers have laid-up rather than go for the green in two shots.
Hole 13 is a long par five with no bunkers except left of the green. It plays straight and tree-lined until about 180 yards from the green where it turns strongly to the left. Golfers have to decide whether to lay back for the third shot or be aggressive and take on the turn where the slope dives left, potentially sending balls towards the lava rock.”Blackstone hosted the 56th edition of the World Cup in 2011, when it was won by the two-man USA team of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, giving the Americans their first victory in the event for eleven years. The tournament has now been changed from an annual to a biennial competition.
The Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Hainan is a championship layout designed on the spectacular black lava strata on Hainan Island. The distance is long, over 7,800 yards, the landing areas are tight, and the natural and ancient lava rocks, bunkers, and ponds are all strategically placed. This makes for a deadly and tough course combination.
It is clear that the architect took full advantage of the lava rocks and incorporated them into a prominent part of the design. The lava bed is used in forced carries creating dramatic contrast and the lava rock walls and village ruins created years ago remain as a testament to the site’s past.
The Blackstone course begins in a more heavily wooded portion of ground with a wide variety of hole lengths and green settings. The large and undulating greens are incredibly tricky to read. Amongst the 10 courses on Hainan Island Mission Hills and the 12 courses in Shenzhen Mission Hills, this is the signature course among them. If played from the 6,722-yard Blue Tee, players can expect anywhere from an additional 4 to 10 strokes increase in comparison to the other Mission Hills courses of similar distances. The Blackstone course held the 2011 World Cup and the 2015 World Ladies Championship, a part of European LPGA.
The par 3 172-yard 5th demands a carry over the lava rocks onto the two-tiered green surrounded by lava. The two-tiered green has a strong incline and it is difficult to putt from the other tier. When players lose a ball by hitting short, they will at least have a chance to see it clearly, white against black. The par 5 599-yard 6th is a signature hole with a double dogleg turning to the left before bending to the right. The landing area off the tee is narrow as it is sandwiched between a long bunker on the left and the OB line on the right. On the second shot, players should take note of a series of bunkers located on the right side. The green is strongly elevated, slopes sharply from back to front, and is protected by bunkers on both sides. Furthermore, it is a two-tiered green, left and right.
The par 4 453-yard 17th is an almost straight yet difficult hole with a pond coming into play on the left side for both the tee and the second shots. Bunkers guard the left and right sides of the green where a ridge crosses though the middle of the green. The par 5 539-yard 18th is a superb finishing hole with a dogleg to the right. Fairway bunkers on the left and the lava on the right comes into play off the tee. A carry of 190 yards is required in order to hit over the wetland and lava. The second shot is over the pond onto the fairway tilting from left to right, and gravitating towards the bunker and pond. The same pond also guards the right side of the green sloping to the right.
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The Blackstone course at Mission Hills is a resort course mainly built to be able to host big events. It can play extremely long if needed. It’s main defense against scoring is length. I don’t think I had a non flat lie on the entire course around the fairways or on them. The greens are gentle in their contours, nothing I would personally get too excited about. The course is heavily over watered and perhaps even over seeded. This is a shame in my opinion but probably what the guests expect to find there. Given the state of golf in China (which is hurting given the government is basically anti-golf) I can’t imagine this course being sustainable into the future but they may change their mind and continue to throw money into it.
It’s a nice walk in a beautiful garden with manmade lakes and ponds, lava rocks and exotic fauna. The golf is fun but not spectacular.