Future of golf: Mayans, noodles & pandas

Golf can be fun, frustrating, therapeutic and challenging. At this course, it may make you hungry. Courtesy of HK Golf

Mark Twain may have opined that golf was a good walk spoilt, but he never landed a 5-iron into the center of an 80-meter wide giant bowl of noodles.

Nestled on the Chinese island of Hainan in the Pacific Ocean, the luxury resort of Mission Hills will soon play host to arguably the zaniest golf course on the planet, designed by veteran course architect Brian Curley of Schmidt-Curley Design.

“What I pushed was to create full-scale mini golf,” explains Curley, who was named Golf Magazine’s 2011 Architect of the Year. “It’s still going to be real golf, with real clubs. You’ll need to putt and you’ll need to drive. Everything will be the same except instead of being surrounded by pine trees, you’re surrounded by the Great Wall of China.”

The course, scheduled for completion in 2014, aims to pay tribute to its Chinese location. A 400-yard hole lined with a replica Great Wall of China? Check. A hole named “Panda-monium”? Of course. Other holes will include a par-3 that hits players with hard winds from large fans, and a par-5 that will weave through a set of Mayan ruins. One tee shot has to be hit from behind a waterfall, while another is from inside a giant sleeve of golf balls.

“It’s really important that it’s still real golf because it needs to be accepted by real golfers,” Curley said. “It’s real golf; it’s just the imaging that takes on a whole new level.”

Perhaps the course’s crowning moment will be the 85-meter wide bowl of floating noodles with 70-meter long chopsticks resting on the side of the bowl.

“If you think about it, it’s the exact same shot you would hit at the 17th at Sawgrass,” Curley said. “It’s the same size green and it’s surrounded by water. The shot is no different, it’s just that visually it’s different. When you’re hitting into a bowl and there are chopsticks and noodles floating in the water it takes on a whole new level -- the purists are going to have a fit.

“We have a hole where you hit over a chasm that looks like an excavation site and there are like 500 full-size terracotta warriors.”

With the top course at Mission Hills, Blackstone, recently voted the best course in China and best tournament course in Asia Pacific, Hainan Island is no stranger to hosting some of the sport’s biggest stars.

As for when they arrive, Curley has no doubt about the one thing they’ll check off before they leave.

“I guarantee that if you’re Tiger Woods and you’re playing an event, you tell me you don’t want to hit the noodle bowl shot? I don’t care who you are, you’ll want to hit that shot.”