The redesign of Foshan GC in China was confirmed a success when the club hosted a European Tour event just one year after opening.
In 2007 we were engaged by the New World Group, a leading large-scale national developer in mainland China, to undertake a complete redesign of a course originally laid out by American Ross Forbes. Some of the course was to be devoted to real estate, but additional land was available for us to route 18 new holes, and a further nine additional holes were also part of the planning. The client’s intention was to also develop a significant real estate component around the golf course.
The existing golf course had become unkempt and it was New World’s desire that the new course slot amongst the best handful of courses in China.
In order to achieve all aims a complete redesign and extension of the existing course was required.
The following summarises some of the key platforms in the design process and also celebrates some successes achieved since opening in 2012:
Key Design Intentions
Were to respect the terrain character as much as possible in the layout and linking of the golf holes;
To improve the environmental values in the site;
To ensure total safety between golf play and the residential framework;
To create a golf course which in its strategic balance and visual beauty ensured the client should have the best integrated golf-residential estate possible; and
To provide a golf terrain capable of holding a world-class tournament, so the client could promote the values of Foshan to China and to the world.
Specific values in the site for golf needed to be respected, and environmental elements that could be improved by proper design and construction methods. The main issues were the degraded waterways which required significant reconstruction and environmental treatment. The linking in of the design of the golf holes, and the established corridors for fairways between valuable treelines (predominantly Eucalypts) which residual parts of the previous golf course provided was also key. Our goal was to ensure that the entire fabric was seamless in its vision, and that the high-quality residential components set back from the fairways gained best value from the golf course layout.
We had to educate the client that golfers of widely different skill and strength levels would need to be constantly stimulated to maximise enjoyment. To achieve this we ensured there’s always a range of ways in which to play each hole, conditioned by the player’s bravery and ability. All good golf courses allow the best golfers in the world to be challenged, whilst giving players of lesser talent or strength the chance to find joy. This subtle balance is what good golf architecture must always strive to achieve.
Foshan’s special quality
Our intention was to make the Foshan golf course different to anything seen in China at that time. We wanted a certain wildness and ‘naturalness’ in the fashioning of the play areas, using the golf features and elements such as bunkers to appear like they grew out naturally from the land, sometimes set in wild grasses and undulations, unlike the manicured ‘parks’ that were then the norm in Asia.
Our philosophy was also that the settings for greens and even tee systems should appear as though they were always there in nature, just waiting to be mown out for play.
Landscaping of the golf holes was also going to be very important to accentuate this ‘natural’ character throughout the course. We did not want lines of trees defining the limits of any hole, but rather loose copses of suitable trees and bushes giving backgrounds to the play zones, dark massings which define the lovely broad fairway extents, with open passages between them for light and ventilation to the turf. Careful design was necessary to get this balance correct.
Further, a distinct planting palette suitable to the climatic conditions of Foshan needed to be selected to ensure the golf course had this unique character and one that rested comfortably, naturally in the site.
The result is a course that features vegetation unique to Foshan, with bahia grass prevalent in out-of-play zones, the presence of extensive planted wetlands and a bunkering style that is rugged and natural in appearance.
Early in our engagement we advised our client that to achieve the lofty expectations they had for the new course, sufficient construction and finishing budgets would need to be applied. New World made good budgets available for the work.
Construction is often a far from straightforward proposition, and the best results are obtained by regular on-site attendance by the course architect, even when very accurate construction drawings are provided. Fortunately our client understood the need for a significant presence on site from Cashmore Design representatives.
The new course opened in 2012. In 2013, New World and Foshan Golf Club hosted the inaugural Foshan Open, a European Challenge Tour Event; it was most successful, many international players praising the very different and imaginative character of the course. The staging of this event at Foshan will be an annual occurrence and there are also intentions the course will stage other high-profile professional tournaments.
Foshan is already regarded as one of the best new golf courses in China. We are now working with New World to develop a further nine-hole very flexible ‘short course’ on the site to accomplish original intentions to provide an all-round golf experience for residents and hotel guests.
Foshan Golf Club became the third golf club in China to receive the prestigious international award for sustainable golf – GEO Certified – presented to golf venues for their commitment and practical contributions to the environment and communities.