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 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.