Fall Shooting Features a Photo Trip to China!
2014 was already a great year, and Fall shooting was shaping up nicely, but everything changed on October 6th, when I received a note from golf course architect, Rick Robbins, saying he had an owner who wanted me to photograph his new golf course near Beijing. Rick's note rocketed my Happy-O-Meter to an entirely new level, and was the starting gun for an amazing adventure.
It’s very unusual for an American photographer to be invited to China to shoot golf courses, so my two week trip to shoot Yinhong No. 6, near Beijing and Yishan Golf Club, in Wuhan, was not only a rarity, but also a bit of an honor. The Chinese people could not have been nicer. I found them to be incredibly warm and welcoming, and if I’d had a better time, my head would have exploded. In fact, before I left Yishan Golf Club, the entire staff adopted me as part of the Yishan family, and I can’t wait to visit them again. It was a great adventure, and it looks like it was not a one-up, but rather only the beginning of my relationship with golf in China. Now, about those golf courses…
As you probably know, the golf business in China is in a state of confusion, as new government regulations have had a negative impact on golf course construction. In Beijing, I was told the government has raised water prices for golf courses by a factor of 40, putting the futures of many existing courses in jeopardy. The good news is that Rick’s sustainable design of Yinhong No. 6 not only conserves water, but has also had the effect of reducing pollution in Beijing! His use of native grasses common to links courses will minimize water needs, and his design includes many ponds and collection areas throughout the course that should meet its water needs in all but the most extreme conditions. In Wuhan, about 600 miles south of Beijing, the owners of Yishan Golf Club are also enjoying the benefits of Rick’s sustainable design, and they expressed no real concerns about government regulations. In fact, they’re very happy that there are now clear guidelines about where, how and what kind of golf courses they can build. They have more golf courses and communities planned, and feel as if the new regulations have freed them to move ahead with their plans.
Yinhong No. 6, Yintai Hongeye Golf Club, Near Beijing
Yinhong No. 6 was a great way to begin the trip. I had an interpreter a few hours each day, and the menus in the club’s restaurant had pictures! Yay! I could eat! And the food was very good. I stayed in a “VIP Room” in the clubhouse because, when possible, I like to stay on property when I photograph a golf course. I shoot at oddball times… pre-dawn, middle of the night, etc… so being able to simply walk outside and get to work suits me. On multiple occasions, the general manager offered to put me up at a 5-star hotel just 15 minutes away, but though small, the accommodations in the clubhouse were fine, and the entire staff made me feel very welcome. The skies when I arrived were what one would expect in Beijing… awful. And they improved only slightly the second day. But the third night I was there, the winds blew and cleared the air, giving me a great day for shooting. You can see some of my favorite images HERE. Then the haze returned, and it was time to head to Wuhan.
Yishan Golf Club, Wuhan, Hubei Province
Located in the central area of Wuhan on a beautiful property, Yishan Golf Club isn’t yet fully open, but it’s already hosted its first PGA Tour China Series event. The stunning clubhouse won 1st Place in Golf, Inc’s 2014 Clubhouse of the Year competition. And while I was there, the club hosted an event for Ferrari, which brought 4 of it’s cars to the club so members could test drive them thru the community. In short, Yishan is no ordinary golf club.
The golf course is a different style course from any of the others in the region. The bunkers are much larger than normal and have been shaped to resemble those of the famous architect, Dr. Alastair McKenzie. It’s a beauty. The weather was rainy when I arrived in Wuhan, but on the third day, the sun rose on beautiful, bright skies and I had a great day of shooting. I did manage to take an unplanned swim as I scrambled across a creek on some stepping stones to get a shot I wanted, but no equipment was damaged, so it was all good. It was also wet. And 45 degrees. Brrrr.
A personal note. I don't believe I've ever met a nicer group of people than those I met at Yishan Golf Club. Arthur Shu, the Deputy General Manager, a woman from Human Resources who picked me up at the train station when I arrived and took me to the airport when I left, and Zhong Hua, a lovely girl who works in the hotel who helped me with translations many times, were the only people on the property who spoke English. And that's in a staff of about 300. But I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I felt completely at home, and I was sad to leave. To all of you at Yishan, thank you for your hospitality. I look forward to seeing you again!