Hainan Island lies just off the south west coast of China and it’s a former agricultural outpost that has quietly evolved into one of the world’s top golfing hotspots. When the Chu family – proprietors of the mega resort at Mission Hills in Shenzen – came up against government opposition to their construction plans on the mainland, they simply moved offshore to further develop the brand.
Situated 15 minutes from Haikou, the island’s capital, the site chosen for the latest multi-billion dollar Mission Hills resort facility is a seven mile-long property that sprawls out across a landscape of volcanic rock. In keeping with the vast scale of Chu family projects, a nearby clay mountain was virtually leveled and soil trucked in, 24 hours a day, to cap the entire property under a metre of earth.
So now the twelve course complex at Shenzen on the mainland has been joined by ten courses at the new Hainan resort complex since 2007 and all of these new tracks (a mixture of 9-hole and 18-hole layouts) have been built on top of the lava fields under the direction of the Arizona-based Schmidt-Curley Design company.
With fairways characterised by large waste bunkers, the Lava Fields course can be stretched to a mammoth 7,475 yards from the championship tees and both nines on the course end in some style. Hole 9, at 513 yards, is the longest and toughest par four on the card and the 18th is one of the best at the resort, a downhill par five with plenty of playing options from tee to green.In 2011, the 56th World Cup of Golf was played at Mission Hills in Haikou when the Blackstone course hosted the event.
Lava Fields seems to be a touch better than Blackstone though it remains a fun resort course. I doubt you’ll ever see so much lava rock unless you go visit a volcano. I thought this aspect was a bit exaggerated although the island is a volcanic island and the rock was not brought in, it was there.
It would be really fun to play this course if it were maintained really firm and fast. It’s quite wide open with it’s set up and has generous fairways. They had the greens also running far to slow (about 8) for the amount of undulation on them. The course itself is far too overwatered and lush. The maintenance set up for me detracts from the experience of this links like set up Brian Curley has put together. It’s less exaggerated than Blackstone and has quite a solid routing.