Shanqin Bay is located near the rural, third world village of Bo’ao and built on a site that features a glorious mix of beach, sand, dunes, canyons and some high rocky bluffs, either looking inland away from the coast or, in places, spectacularly down toward the water. These elevation changes are so steep that Bill Coore’s initial feeling upon inspecting the site was to ‘question whether a golf course could be built here’. It wasn’t until his 6th or 7th day walking the property that he uncovered a circulation pattern that made any sense, and one that would allow for the severe elevation to be used on the downhill holes.
This routing scheme was one of the keys to making Shanqin Bay work. The other was a client who approved the plan, and allowed the design team to build a course with three closing short par fours and unconventional features like a blind Alps green. Throwing the rule book out the window on such dramatic terrain is the only way to create quality golf, and the developer here deserves a great deal of credit for giving his designers the freedom to build the holes and sequences they really wanted. This is as far from the 36 in – 36 out, par 72 championship formula as you’ll find anywhere in China. Par depends on the wind, a number of greens are open to bouncing shots played off surrounding slopes, the fairways are huge and strategic, and some of the most difficult up and downs are those from the short-cut grass.
Another interesting aspect of the project is the lack of continuous cart paths. Virtually all golfers in China drive, yet wear at Shanqin Bay is expected to be spread across the layout’s vast, undulating fairway areas. Aesthetically, the lack of paths together with the views, the scale of the terrain and the use of native tropical vegetation make this a beautiful golf course to look at. It has also been beautifully built, with the shaping done across the property by Jimmy Craig and his crew absolutely first-class. Of particular note are the scraggy bunkers, and the manipulation of difficult areas like the 6th, 10th and 13th into some of the most attractive parts of the golf course.