HOHHOT, Inner Mongolia, China -- Schmidt-Curley Design's pioneering spirit has once more come to the fore in the shape of an authentic links-style course on the edge of the Gobi Desert and along the banks of the Yellow River.
Underlining their reputation as one of the world's most active and innovative golf course architectural companies, Schmidt-Curley Design's first project in Inner Mongolia is touted to change misconceptions about golf in China as well as inspiring developers to seek out great, natural sites.
Featuring 20-metre sand dunes, the 18-hole Dalu Dunes layout will be unlike any other golfing venue in the world's most populous country - and will be open to the public.
Ahead of its soft opening next month, Lee Schmidt, Principal, Schmidt-Curley Design, said: "We are excited to introduce the Chinese population to a real links golf setting. The course consists of non-returning nines to make the most out of this dramatic terrain which features punchbowl greens, redans, dramatic fall away greens as well as challenging plateaus."
The course that measures 7,195 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 72 is about 90 kilometres south of the Inner Mongolian capital of Hohhot, in a small town called Dalu.
Throughout the design process, Schmidt looked at not only preserving the existing vegetation and natural sand dunes but also the micro undulations in the fairways and green contours.
Schmidt, currently serving as President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, said: "Keeping with the great links courses of the British Isles we recognise the importance of challenging golfers with a variety of uneven lies, partially blind shots, and opening up the golfer's eyes to a variety of ways to play each hole."
The fairways are wide (70-80 yards in spots) in order to keep a playable golf course during the windy season (Spring-Early Summer) which can see winds upward of 20-30 miles per hour.
Depending on hole locations and wind direction any given day, Schmidt-Curley have provided alternate routes to play each hole with the intention of challenging golfers to find the right section of the fairway or by asking them to run a shot onto the green using the side of a hill or mound instead of flying a greenside bunker.
Brian Curley, Principal, Schmidt-Curley Design, said: "We want golfers to think about where they want a shot to end up, not necessarily where they want it to land and stop as they have become accustomed to with the overly manicured and lush conditions found in places like Beijing or southern China.
"We hope this design will not only change the misconceptions of the game in China, but also inspire developers to seek out great, natural sites like those found here, on the edge of the Gobi Desert."
Indeed, in terms of its potential impact on golf course architecture in China, some are already drawing comparisons with the Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore-designed Sand Hills Golf Club in north central Nebraska where the land was shaped by the elements. In the aftermath of Sand Hills' opening in the mid-1990s, hundreds of courses around the world followed those ideals.
Curley agrees. He said: "This course in Dalu could have the same impact on China, a market that has demanded more modern, garden-like courses and historically has been slower to respond to new trends."
In addition to the main course, a host of other facilities are also planned at the site, including an 18-hole par-three course, a putting course and a full service double-ended driving range, stretching to 400 yards.
Furthermore, a Golf Academy on north end of the driving range will feature a putting green, chipping green and five-acre short-game area with five separate target greens, ranging in distance from 40 yards to 170 yards.
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