China - Playing golf at Mission Hills
With 600 golf courses and counting, China is rapidly becoming a major player in the world of golf. They also have the world's largest golf resort.
Preparing for my trip, my research showed one thing - Mission Hills is all about size! The Guinness Book of Records recognises the complex as the world's largest golf resort and the numbers are certainly impressive. It boasts 12 courses, 216 holes, 3000 caddies, 1000 golf carts, 180 ground keepers 2 hotels and Asia's largest spa. Built in 1994, Mission Hills is situated just over the border from Hong Kong, in a stretch of land between Shenzhen and Dongguan. Its two main sites are easily reachable via Hong Kong Airport, and there's even a mini-bus pick up from several Hong Kong hotels.
Luxury and service. I was booked in to stay at the Dongguan Hotel as the Shenzhen complex was closed for complete refurbishment. As I pulled up to the hotel I was met by Mona Li, the Director of Brand Development and my contact for the two-day stay. Walking through the opulent lobby to the premier check-in desk I very quickly realised that the Mission Hills experience is not just about size, but also about luxury and service. My accommodation, a Grande Premiere Room, allowed me to enjoy personal butler service, a complimentary breakfast, evening cocktails and access to the Premiere Lounge. The room was sumptuous and modern with stunning views of the lake and the 18th hole of the course that I would later be playing. The personal welcome on the TV screen was a nice finishing touch.
Wealthy customers. As I settled in and unpacked, a fresh bowl of fruit was delivered just in case I felt peckish. After refreshing quickly I headed down to meet Mona for lunch.Walking to the Dongguanclubhouse (which happens to be the world's largest clubhouse), I got a sense of the wealthy customers that Mission Hills has been built to serve. On our way to the World Restaurant we passed through an avenue of shops representing some of the largest luxury brands - all which would look at home in any high-end shopping mall around the world. Apart from the lavishness of the place it's obvious that here golf is "king". There are TV screens everywhere showing highlights of golf from competitions around the world - all on Mission Hills' own television station.
Glorious meal. The menu for the set lunch had my mouth watering. To get the taste buds going I was first served an appetiser of 'Tuna with Sesame, and Vegetable and Walnut Salad, Spicy Tomato and Seafood Soup', followed by 'Baked Garoupa with Crab Meat in Champagne Cream Sauce on Angel Hair Pasta with Seasonal Vegetables,' and finished with 'Tiramisu'. All beautifully presented and expertly cooked as you would expect. After such a glorious meal it seemed sacrilege to rush off, but my tee time was approaching and I needed to get ready for the highlight of my trip.
Olazábal's signature course. Of the five courses at the Dongguan I was to play the Olazábal Course, which is José Maria Olazábal's inaugural Signature course and one of the clubs strongest tests. This course is used for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup. It plays to 7,300 yards and boasts 151 bunkers (including 24 on the 15th hole alone), reflecting Olazábal's reputation as a master with the sand wedge. It is also considered to be the prettiest course in the Mission Hills armoury. I couldn't wait; I just hoped my golf was ready for the challenge. I was introduced to my caddy, Mimi (all Mission Hills caddies are female and undergo a minimum of three months training), and found that her English was excellent. Once we had loaded up the cool box with water and towels, as the temperature was a modest 34°C, I was ready for the task at hand.
Fast greens. We started on the par-4 1st hole (stroke index 9) which offered a nice, open dogleg right, challenged with the requisite strategic bunkers. My first impressions were good; the course looked immaculate and well cared for with beautiful views over the surrounding area. After a nice starting drive down the left-hand side of the hole and a couple of good approach shots, the speed of the green caught me out to score a double bogey, not a great start and a reminder about warming up and practicing properly before a round. We moved on to the par-3 2nd hole, a nice tree-lined hole where accuracy and distance are paramount. The caddie's expert advice counted for everything here and it got me on to the green with a nice simple putt for my par.
The heat of the moment. The 3rd hole is a picturesque par-5 with a small stream cutting the green off from the rest of the open, undulating fairway. After a straight drive, a disastrous second and third shot left me still with the stream to cross. A hooked fourth managed to get me over, and a nice chip and double putt finished the hole. In my defence I have to say that at this point the heat was really starting to be a factor and I would advise liberal use of sun protection and plenty of fluids if you are intending to come here in the summer. My caddie made a quick call on her radio and an umbrella to protect me from the glare was soon on its way.
In the bunkers. The tree-lined dog leg left par-4 was next and played without too much drama as I was beginning to learn this course rewarded accuracy and shot planning, giving me a par for my trouble. The par-5 7th is a stunning downhill hole that is littered with bunkers surrounding a small green. This hole played well for me and gave me a well-earned par. It was here that I got my first experience of the course's famous bunkers. As expected, these are beautifully maintained and tested my skill with the sand wedge. The gigantic par-5 9th hole is the hardest on the course. It curves first right and then left with a path crossing about two thirds down, and offers a nice view across the resort from the tee. The 11th plays downhill against the beautiful backdrop of the mountain, helping to take your mind off the high number of obstacles on this difficult par-5. I was left very satisfied with my par.
Testing but beautiful. The 15th is the signature hole on the course and is a beautifully landscaped par-5 dogleg left around the edge of a lake. The 24 bunkers are bound to claim many a stray ball. The final hole is a nice par-4 and leads to the hotel along the edge of a lake, and at least offers a small chance to finish well. The Olazábal Course was at times testing and frustrating, but always beautiful and a pleasure to play.
The feast. After a cold beer in the Clubhouse I freshened up and headed to the Spa, where I was treated to a full body massage that eased away all the aches and pains I had collected from the afternoon's activity. The Spa is luxurious and tranquil and the range of treatments astounding. Feeling like a new man I met Mona again who was to join me for my evening feast at the Tao Yuan Restaurant, where we enjoyed the finest of Chinese cuisine.The meal was exquisite and the Hand-made Noodles with Beef Brisket were some of the best I had ever tried. The chef seemed very pleased with my praise when he later came out to introduce himself. Being completely sated I decided to retire to my room.
Guided tour. After a buffet breakfast I was given a tour of the resorts' large and impressive facilities. The first stop was the 'Kids Club' where they have planned activities with patient English-speaking staff. There is an excellent gym as well as a large outdoor and luxurious indoor pool.
We then jumped on the Mission Hills bus that regularly runs between the Dongguan Resort, Shenzhen Resortand the Country Club, to have a look at the Shenzhen Hotel and Clubhouse. It was obvious that on completion of the re-development, the Shenzhen location would be equally as impressive as Dongguan.
The last supper. To finish my Mission Hills experience I was treated to a final meal at the Shenzhen based Japanese Restaurant. We started with Avocado and Sesame Salad, followed by a Seafood Soup served in a teapot. Next was a plate of Mixed Sashimi and Sushi followed by Pan Fried Cod and Prawn and Vegetable Tempera. The meal was finished off with Black Honey Ice Cream. My final thoughts as I left Mission Hills were that this is a Five Star resort of spectacular dimensions which has plenty to offer, whether you come on your own, or with the family. But where it really excels is with its twelve fantastic courses, and no golf tour of South East Asia should miss Mission Hills - but then, considering its size, I don't think you could.
Flights to Hong Kong
Jet Airways, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand fly from Heathrow and Emirates from Gatwick.
From the airport
Situated along the intersection of the Meiguan Expressway, the Guanshen Expressway and the Jinhe Expressway, Mission Hills is easily accessible from any direction. The golf club is reachable from the city centres of Shenzhen and Dongguan within 30 minutes and from Central in Hong Kong within two hours.
Grande Deluxe Room £135
Grande Premiere Room £195
Grande Premiere Suite £382
Grande Premiere Family Suite (Two Bedrooms) £480
Grande Deluxe (Lake View) £145
Grand Premiere (Lake View) £205
Grand Premiere Suite (All Lake View) £382
Presidential Suite on both locations £3,820
Golf Rate (all courses) including green fee, caddie and cart