Shanghai is becoming a must-visit golfing destination as great courses are being built in the area to cater for not only visitors and Chinese members but also ex-pats who work in the numerous blue chip international companies based in the city.
Sheshan International Golf Club is the epitome of Shanghai and it’s an intoxicating blend of Chinese tradition and international modernity. The golf course was fashioned by the design firm Nelson & Haworth whose raison d'être is to develop “challenging and enjoyable golf courses that sit lightly on the land and often incorporate elements of local cultural significance.”
Sheshan Golf Club is set twenty minutes to the west of Shanghai centre and the course, which opened for play in 2004, has developed into one Shanghai’s premier layouts. Sheshan Mountain may be no more than a hill, but Nelson & Haworth moved mountains of earth to create Sheshan, 1.5 million cubic metres to be precise. The result is a dramatic 7,143-yard layout with numerous valleys, a deep rock quarry which comes into play on the 16th and 17th holes, and exciting elevation changes. Apparently, the classic Donald Ross-designed Oak Hill was the design inspiration.
The Sheshan clubhouse and surrounding villas have been designed in a Tuscan style and they are amongst some of the most expensive property in Shanghai.
In 2005, less than a year after the course opened, the HSBC Champions tournament was held at Sheshan, England’s David Howell won the inaugural event beating Tiger Woods by three shots. Korea’s Yang Yong-eun won in 2006 and Phil Mickelson claimed the 2007 title. Sergio Garcia edged out England’s Oliver Wilson in a play-off to win the 2008 event. This was the inaugural tournament of the new "Race to Dubai", a rebrand of the European Tour’s Order of Merit.
In 2009, the HSBC Champions tournament was given World Golf Championship status and Phil Mickelson held his nerve on the final hole at Sheshan to pip Ernie Els by a single shot. Els shot an impressive course record nine-under-par 63 in the final round but it was not enough to catch overnight leader Mickelson.
Focus for the 2010 event centred on the world number one spot after Lee Westwood put an end to Tiger Woods's 281-week reign in October. Both players were in action at Sheshan but it was Italian Francesco Molinari who held his nerve to win by one-shot from Lee Westwood. Tiger Woods finished twelve shots off the pace and without a single win during 2010.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer putted his way to victory in the 2011 event, holing every putt he lined up. Kaymer shot a final round 63, taking a mere 29 strokes on the back nine.
In 2012 the WGC-HSBC Champions event moved to the Olazabal course at Mission Hills in Dongguan, but the tournament returned to Sheshan in 2013 when Dustin Johnson lifted the title.
Bubba Watson won his first WGC title in dramatic style in the 2014 event at Sheshan, after the American holed from a bunker on the 72nd hole for an eagle, to force a play-off against South African Tim Clark, which Watson won at the first extra hole.
Russell Knox made history in 2015 becoming the first Scot to win a WGC event. The 30-year-old from Inverness beat a star-studded field to claim his maiden European Tour title in Shanghai.
History was again made in 2016 at Sheshan when Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian golfer to claim an individual WGC title and his seven-shot winning margin was also the largest in the history of the WGC – HSBC Champions. There was more excitement in 2017 when Justin Rose produced the biggest comeback of the season to win his second WGC title denying Dustin Johnson – who was six shots clear at the top of the leaderboard going into the final round. In 2018 Xander Schauffele edged Tony Finau in a play-off to win his first European Tour title.
The par 4 550-yard 2nd contains a sharp dogleg that bends towards the right. The tee shot is placed over a creek that guards the left side of the relatively narrow fairway. An accurate tee shot is necessary in order to avoid the row of six bunkers that are all lined up on the right side of the hole. In addition, the creek that is on the left hand side eventually leads into a lake that sits near the end of the hole. This will give the players some pressure on their second and third shorts. The very short par 4 288-yard 16th is superb. The tee shot will hover over a body of water, bushes a large front bunker, and two back bunkers that are all strategically placed over the course of 250 yards. It is very tempting for long hitters to try to hit the green with one shot but players must be careful, as the green is small and surround by hazards. Therefore, at the tee ground, players must make a decision whether go for the green or a lay-up. It is said that Tiger Woods played this hole cleverly during the 2006 HSBC Champions. During his play, he used a number 3 wood club and managed to hit safely short left side of the green with easy one chip and one putt. One the other hand, Japanese Hideki Matsuyama ended up with a triple bogey on a 2014 tournament when his aggressive drive became a lost ball. The 212-yard par 3 requires you to hit your ball over a ravine. The bunkers that are placed on the left, right and back sections are something to look out for. Finally the green slopes sharply to the right so the player must aim accordingly to where the pin is located on that day. To read more about Sheshan International GC, click here to visit my website.