Connect with us

19th Hole

‘Kicking myself but laughing at myself’ – Former major champ WDs from Phoenix Open following huge error

Published

on

At the end of last season, veteran Lucas Glover became one of the feel-good stories in professional golf as he caught fire before and during the FedEx Cup playoffs, winning the Wyndham Championship and then the FedEx St. Jude.

This season, Glover hasn’t gotten off to a great start. He’s gone T29, MC, T58 in his three starts, and had an unfortunate mishap this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 44-year-old missed his tee time in round one, forcing him to withdraw from the event.

While speaking to Golf Channel, he explained what happened. “I just mis-read my text messages [that listed my tee time],” Glover said. “I’m kicking myself but laughing at myself at the same time.”

Ryo Hisatsune was the man who got in the field due to Glover’s withdrawal, taking the 8:26 tee time.

More from the 19th Hole

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

19th Hole

The biggest golf resort you never knew but should

Published

on

As a Korean-Canadian and an avid golfer for over 35 years, I was fortunate to have played on many beautiful golf courses in the West and the Far East. I still have a boatload of courses like Pebble Beach and St. Andrews on my bucket list, but I came to learn that Asia had plenty of such places to visit as well.

I have recently had the good fortune of playing the iconic Blackstone Golf Club at Mission Hills Resort in China, which is consistently ranked as one of the best courses in Asia. Blackstone is particularly famous for hosting the Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy exhibition ‘The Match at Mission Hills’ in 2013. The event brought international attention to the sprawling luxury resort and boosted the level of interest in the game in the region.

Before delving into my amazing experience at Blackstone Golf Club, here is a little bit of information about the best golf resort you may never heard of.

Tiger and Rory faced off at the very course I was at in 2013. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it by telling you who won.

The Best Golf Resort In The World?

Mission Hills Golf and Resort is located in the southern part of China on Hainan Island, which is about the size of Maine. Often referred to as the Hawaii of China, its tropical location gives the island year-round sunshine with temperatures between 75~90°F in the winter and 60~75°F in the summer. Along with dozens of other notable golf resorts and courses on the Island, the resort is a popular destination for golfers from Asia, Europe, and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Mission Hills first opened its doors in early 2010 with the aim of becoming the best resort in the world. I’m not sure if they achieved their goal, but before you smirk at their ambitiousness, Mission Hills is currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World”s largest golf resort with a total of 10 world-class golf courses. That is an astounding 180 championship-class golf holes in one resort! The courses are designed by the talented Schmidt-Curley Design team who are behind some of the best courses in Asia and around the world.

The Blackstone Golf Club is considered the “crown jewel” course at Mission Hills Resort, and gets its name from the plethora of black lava rock that is found all over the course as part of its beautiful charm. But don't be fooled by its rugged beauty, as the monster-long Blackstone has hosted several World Cup of Golf championships (guess who teamed up for the US to win in 2011?) and the annual World Ladies Championships. It also hosts the annual World Celebrity Pro-Am attended by an amazing A-list of screen stars, pro golfers, and elite athletes from around the world.

So yeah, the course is quite good.

On top of that, the resort holds another world’s best distinction, with a total of 168 different hot springs and pools within the resort. Unfortunately, I was too immersed in playing golf to take advantage of a good hot soak, but it will be on the top of my list to do with my whole family next time.

Now, let’s take a close look at what the Blackstone course was all about, and keep in mind that the course descriptions and opinions are all my own from experience and perspective.

The early morning view outside the hotel room overlooking the course and resort is breathtaking

Greens

The green condition was quite superb, albeit a bit slow from Western standards. According to the caddie, the green speed was measured at about 2.9 meters, which translates to about 9.5 on the stimp meter. A speed of 7 is considered to be slow, and the average PGA Tour event is said to be about 12, so for us average folk the greens were rolling well.

The green size is quite large with nearly 5700 square feet average in size with less-than-subtle undulations and big rolling plateaus. The pins were placed slightly towards the front left of the green this day, and the approach shots were challenging for us amateurs to stuff close. The ball rolled straight and true to where it was aimed, and I only had myself to blame for missed short putts.

I don’t know if its an Asian thing, but we seem to have many courses with big greens and sometimes ridiculously big undulations and plateaus on them. We even have bunkers in the middle of the green, sometimes!

Fairways

Unlike many of the Korean courses I’m used to, the fairways are lush and readily yielded nice dollar-sized divots from well-struck iron shots into the greens. The course itself is huge and it was reflected in the long wide fairways stretching from tee to green.

Most of the fairways seemed to be free of readily noticeable trouble areas, meaning that what you see was what you got. However, upon close inspection, there were many subtle undulations which caused the stance to be slightly uneven at address. It wasn’t like St. Andrews level of fairway undulations, but it was there.

Also, the big prominent fairways bunkers often came into play and caused me to consciously aim away from them, which left longer approach shots into the green. We were somehow feeling confident this day and were playing from the blue tees. And for a guy who averages 240-yard drives on my best days, those small detours inevitably added 1-2 clubs more to the next shot.

Fairways were rolling nicely but were still a bit damp due to the sporadic short rain bursts.

Most fairways were quite wide, though it didn’t keep our balls from escaping into the jungle.

Rough

Truth to tell, the rough wasn’t all that intimidating, as it was only modestly long, and the wide fairways pushed the rough back considerably. As it wasn’t tournament season and the course was set up to mostly cater to vacationers, it made sense not to make the rough too punishing.

Beyond the rough was mostly deep jungle-like vegetation, which made it next to impossible to hit the ball out of, let alone find it in the first place.  Thanks to our amateur ball-striking abilities, however, we easily overpowered the hapless wide fairways to appease the jungle gods with our many golf balls.

The rough is almost non-existent from tee to green, except for a little bit around the bunkers and extreme sides of the fairways. The course is very long, so I guess they want golfers to relax and not get high blood pressure?

Fairway and 1st-cut rough

Bunkers

Blackstone had no shortage of fairway and greenside bunkers to daunt the average golfer. The many fairway bunkers were often quite large, and despite the mostly wide fairways, some were placed just at the right(?) places to catch drives that strayed left or right off the tee. Standing on the tees, the presence of so many bunkers was aesthetically pleasing yet intimidating at the same time.

The bunkers were meticulously raked and pristine, with the sand looking visually heavy but being very soft. Maintaining the bunkers to this level of readiness cannot be easy, as there are 10 courses at this resort! Even if there were just two bunkers per hole, that’s still 360 sand traps to rake and prep each day! Add to this the fairways and greens, not to mention the decorative foliage, the level of course maintenance at this level is quite mind-boggling.

I also don’t recall seeing any flat bunkers, as most seemed to have a healthy amount of incline at the front to make it harder to move the ball forward a long way. The greenside bunkers were also deeper and usually presented an upslope lie, and the shots had to have some climb to escape from them. If you have trouble hitting the ball straight, be sure to sharpen your bunker play when you visit Blackstone.

With the frightening number of bunkers at Blackstone, I only managed to get into two of them. I even managed to get up and down on one of them.

Bunkers and blackstones aplenty.

Despite being only the second time in a bunker, this one on the 18th cost me a devastating double bogey.

Tee To Green

Blackstone’s monstrous 7808 yards should satisfy most golfers’ urge to go all out on their shots. From the blues, it was still a challenging 6722 yards, and I don’t mind saying it felt longer than that all day.

Most of the pins can be seen from the tee box, and despite some slightly rolling fairways, Blackstone is a mostly-level parkland course without any significant drop or rise in elevation. Sprawling over a huge area of land, the holes do not double back in parallel but stretch forward through dense foliage, making for a scenic ride in the golf cart. One thing I also appreciated was the leisurely pace of play. The group ahead and behind were not visible for nearly the entire round, despite our less-than-quick pace of play.

From tee to green in its entirety, the course was in amazing shape and condition. The unexpected tropical golf experience was nothing short of amazing, and if I had to make a comparison to some of the other memorable tracks I’ve visited, the Hoakalei Country Club and Turtle Bay Resort (Palmer design) in Hawaii come to mind, along with Korea’s own Haesley Nine Bridge Club, which consistently ranks as one of the best courses in Asia.

The pictures below don’t do justice to the course, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

The sky was particularly blue and the course beautiful; so much so that my foursome didn’t seem to mind carding doubles and triples over and over again. What a joy.

For us short-hitters, we had to aim for the middle of the many bunkers and hope for the best.

If I had a dollar for every time one of us wished we owned a penthouse in one of the many condos dotting the resort…

Many holes are carved right through a lush jungle with a huge modern condo looming in the background.

Cluster bunkers are to be avoided at all costs.

The view from the 1st hole tee at Blackstone.

Looking like a pro in front of the picture board at the 18th tee… then promptly topping a drive 100 yards out. At least I looked good on camera.

Caddies & Carts

Unlike most courses in the West, golf clubs in Asia require each golfer to play with a mandatory caddie and golf cart. Also, if you each decide to have an additional caddie to help hold the umbrella, it can make for a sizeable group of 12 (greens keepers would be tossing in their beds in the west)! So how do the caddies move if you’re driving a power cart, you ask? They simply hop onboard the back of the buggy.

On this day, we ‘only’ had four caddies to attend our play, and they were fantastic. Despite my initial concerns, the language barrier was not an issue as they were conversant in all the needed terminology in English and Korean. This was a pleasant surprise, as I was able to ask more about the course to help my play, and there was always Google Translate.

The caddie fee was 500 yuan each, which is about $70 US. They were highly professional and quick on their feet, and I could tell that the resort had gone to good lengths in training the caddies (said to be 2000 in number!) to make the golfing experience enjoyable for their international guests.

Each foursome of caddies had a ‘master caddie’ that led the other three and acted to translate longer dialogues as needed. They had a good knowledge of the course and general breaks on greens. But don’t expect them to be like the actual caddies like for the pros. They are mostly for offering simple advice on reading greens, cleaning and handing over your clubs, and helping you to find your balls.

Not gonna lie… having a personal caddie wait on your every shot was nerve-wracking at first.

Resort & Facilities

Mission Hills Haikou has a 500-room hotel with several fine-dining restaurants and high-end boutiques within the main wing and the adjoining annex. They also have a shopping mall within the hotel featuring global brands like Taylormade, Adidas, and Skechers, along with a slew of high-end golf brands to luxury watches and whiskies.

The view from my room on the 9th floor was something to write home about, along with the impeccable services. Truth to tell, I had previously heard several horror stories of less-than-friendly services which led me to refrain from visiting China prior. That must’ve been a different country, as Mission Hills pulled out all the stops to impress and awe its visitors, and it certainly worked on me. We were treated like kings on and off the course, and the hotel personnel was on hand to assist us everywhere we went.

The entire resort complex was like a huge labyrinth of spas, pools, shops, and golf courses. They nearly had everything, including an incredible hotel buffet and several ethnic cuisines, a nightclub and karaoke, and an entire museum-like wing dedicated to the many celebrities and pro golfers that have played here. I could have stayed for hours simply looking at their vast collection of golf memorabilia. My golf buddy called it a golf heaven on earth, and I couldn’t agree more.

Again, the pics won’t be able to fully capture the experience, but they’ll give you an idea of the enormous size and quality of the place.

Spic and span to receive guests after a long hiatus during COVID-19, I bet.

I stayed in a nice-sized suite on the 9th floor with a good view overlooking the resort and course.

The tub is actually quite big and probably could fit three of me in it comfy.

The hotel service had complimentary ramen and beers, along with the local fruit.

Early morning view out the window showed the course shrouded in ground fog.

I wasn’t planning to do any swimming when I initially packed for the trip. Next time.

The pool behind the main hotel had sandy beaches!

A huge maze of trails and covered walkways branching off to a vast number of pools, hot springs, and saunas.

The morning buffet was one of the best I had in a while, with a full line up of both Asian and Western foods.

A sign at the entrance of the buffet showed the daily condition of the 10 golf courses.

Hotel Shops & Amenities

The shops inside the lobby were all high-end as well as ones I didn’t think to expect like the NBA-themed shop, Hennessy whiskey and Tabasco hot sauce shops!

Then there were dozens more shops in a whole other building next to the hotel, lined with the palm prints of celebrities and stars. The sheer size and scale of Mission Hills was outrageous.

Trip Overview

Hainan is a tropical Island in the South China Sea and can get quite hot and humid during the summer monsoon season. By plane, it took 4.5 hours from Korea to Hainan.

Interestingly, Hainan Island is designated as a tourist zone by the Chinese government and does not require a visa prior to arrival. It is issued when you arrive at the airport and go through customs.

During the end of 2023 when the trip took place, COVID-19 restrictions were largely over and there were the simplest of checks (1-2 minutes) using a machine to detect any virus before entering and exiting the airport.

The resort itself was only about a 15-minute bus ride from the airport. For those who travel often to Asia, they’ll know that courses and resorts can be up to two hours from the airport.

A brief warm-up on the range and armed with complimentary golf balls, we were off to the first tee.

True to its name, the course had stone walls and fences made from the igneous black lava rock.

Except for the absence of the sound of waves, the ambiance reminded me of courses in Hawaii.

Loved the open skies and the awesome panoramic views!

Be sure to pack some strong sunscreen and sports drinks or salt candy. The tropical climate can get quite hot and humid at midday.

Blackstone plays to par 73 and 6722 yards from the blue. I was happy with the score especially when the caddies told me it was the best they’ve seen in a while, LOL!!!

It looked like they were planning to build even more courses and condos. These folks sure like to think big.

Wall-to-wall memorabilia on display from past majors, champions, and legends of the game. So this is where all those signed Masters flags were!

The three-day stay went by all too fast… (T^T)

As part of the package, we were also shown to the largest duty-free shop in Asia. These guys have a thing for being the biggest, grandest, and most opulent; and it was awesome.

It seemed as if every brand of luxury was represented here, and it would’ve taken hours to see it all. If your partner is into this kind of stuff, leave them at home in case they get in the way of your golf.

A final meal at a popular restaurant before heading to the airport. Can you guess the menu? Yup, Chinese, but like nothing you see in the West. It was all delicious to boot.

Met a new friend while waiting for the limousine bus to take us the rest of the way. Even these guys were BIG.

After a rather simple and quick immigration and boarding process, we were safely on our way home to Korea. I have to give credit to the authorities for making the immigration/airport customs process simple and quick. Sometimes everything can be great, only to be ruined by a last-minute glitch or hold-up at the airport, and there were none.

A short nap and back in Seoul. I can’t wait to go back again soon with the whole family to jump in the hot springs. Now if I can only find a way to go visit Pebble Beach and St. Andrews similarly, I’m set. Wish me luck.

 

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

How Gary Woodland plans to use a nearby bathroom to conquer the rowdy 16th hole at the Phoenix Open

Published

on

While attending the Waste Management Phoenix Open, GolfWRX talked to Gary Woodland ahead of Thursday’s opening day.

One of the questions was about walking through the tunnel on the famous 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.

GolfWRX: “When you think about walking through the tunnel out to 16, like what is that feeling? And do you still get that feeling when you show up?”

Interestingly, the former U.S. Open champion explained how a new bathroom close to the 16th tee can be used to settle down before hitting the intimidating tee shot in front of so many rowdy fans.

Woodland: “I mean, you can hear it on the first hole. You hear it all day. You hear the noise. You can hear when somebody makes birdie. You hear the boo’s. It’s more of me trying to slow everything down when I come through there. I get pretty amped up. I don’t need to be hitting pitching wedge 165 yards. So, just trying to calm down.

“They were nice and put a put a bathroom in there for us. I’ll go in there and try to calm down for a second. Even if I don’t have to go to the bathroom, just to slow everything down. Just slow the breathing down. Slow the adrenaline down and then get up there. There was a flag up in the stadium too today, which hadn’t been in the past. You can actually see where the wind is a little bit. Usually, I’d be walking in and trying to figure out where the wind is before I get to the tunnel.”

Watching players hit the shot into the par-3 stadium hole is one of the best moments of the golf season. Starting on Thursday, we will get to witness the moment for some of the biggest stars on the PGA Tour.

More from the 19th Hole

Your Reaction?
  • 3
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Cam Smith: Joining LIV Golf one of the best decisions I’ve ever made

Published

on

While speaking with The Daily Mail prior to his start at LIV Las Vegas, Cam Smith called joining LIV “one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

“I’m so happy… 14 events out here, four majors, a couple of events at home where I can give back to the fans there, and that’s me. I feel like there’s a lot of time there to become a better golfer.”

With the PGA Tour recently striking a deal with the Strategic Sports Group, the golf world is wondering will LIV golfers ever be welcome back on the PGA Tour. Cam, however, has no interest in playing any more tournaments and didn’t think much of the deal.

‘I definitely don’t want to play anymore tournaments. I didn’t really have much of a reaction, to be honest… I haven’t really kept an eye on that side. All of us here, we’re just trying to make this tour the best that we can.”

The Australian also talked about the fact that he was able to spend plenty of time at home in the lead up to the 2024 LIV Golf season, which is a rarity for a professional golfer.

“I don’t think I’ve done that since I’ve been a professional,” he told The Daily Mail.

The former Champion Golfer of the Year is a simple man, and really enjoys spending time with friends in Australia.

“Oh, mate, just hanging out with friends and family, going down to the pub, having a couple of beers is really all that makes me happy”.

“Playing golf with even some old members at the golf club that I grew up at, seeing the course – all that stuff, it just puts a smile to my face.”

“Sit around, fire up the grill, have some sausages on bread, and have a beer”.

“I probably had seven or eight weeks off really competitive golf,’ he says. Normally? ‘You almost feel guilty putting the clubs down for a week.”

Despite the more relaxed schedule, Cam still thinks he can contend for major championships.

“The majors are obviously a really big priority,’ Smith says. ‘And I feel like I’m still a good enough golfer to tick a couple of those off.”

Smith will tee it up alongside Dustin Johnson and Tyrrell Hatton for the first round of LIV Golf Las Vegas, which is set to kick off on Thursday.

More from the 19th Hole

Your Reaction?
  • 30
  • LEGIT8
  • WOW3
  • LOL5
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP4
  • OB1
  • SHANK26

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending